Written by Michael MacLennan
Alice in Chains
Barrowland, Glasgow, Thursday November 12, 7pm, £25
You might have thought the death of the singer would literally prove a fatal blow for a band, so it was with surprise that many saw the resurrection of grungey, harmony-strewn sludge-metal titans Alice in Chains in 2005, 18 years after they first formed and three years after the death of the inimitable Layne Staley, a frontman notorious for his struggle with drugs problems.
But perhaps it shouldn’t have been so surprising, many other bands have tried to carry on the flame after the passing of a peerless showman. Hey, just look at Queen teaming up with Paul Rodgers! (Actually, on second thoughts please don’t.) And of course in our country we have The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, ploughing on without the sensational Alex Harvey...
Some will inevitably view it as a cynical money-grabbing exercise to capitalise on the inevitable growth in a band’s popularity after Staley’s passing. (The fact the band was really centred around the late singer and guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell certainly lent to some fear it was going to be little more than a solo indulgence by Cantrell.)
However, there certainly seemed to be a sincerity in Alice in Chain’s rise from the ashes - the three remaining members reunited to perform a benefit concert for victims of the 2005 tsunami disaster. On that occasion they utilised vocalists including Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, but subsequently solidified their line-up to record Black Gives Way To Blue, their first studio album since 1995’s self-titled third full-length effort.
New singer William DuVall is an adequate replacement in terms of having the same type of powerful, sneering vocals that Staley excelled at without ever seeming a cheap impersonation, his harmonies with Cantrell possessing that familiar Alice In Chains sound that’s so pivotal to the band. However, after some well reviewed comeback performances the proof was always going to come in the strength of the new album.
And while it doesn’t come close to touching their classic Dirt, it’s a solid effort with plenty of highlights, providing a timely reminder of how poor the numerous impersonators who creeped up in their absence are by comparison. Check My Brain and A Looking In View have the sort of insistent, gloriously droning guitar riffage and sinister harmonies that you’d only hope for, and those stronger tracks combined with the likes of 90s hits Would? And Rooster should provide for a night to remember in the Barrowlands.
Tegan and Sara
HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, Sunday November 15, 7pm, £14 - buy tickets
Identical twins Tegan and Sara are so unnervingly talented that you fear they’ve been developed in an illegal Canadian laboratory where scientists have been seeking to create super-talented musical clones who shall one day - soon, perhaps! - wrest control of the pop charts from Simon Cowell.
That plan probably won’t come to fruition quite yet, not while we have the Jedward sideshow to hog the headlines until their inevitable residency at Butlins, but for the moment it’s more than good enough to see Tegan and Sara deliver their spiky self-penned alt-pop gems with sleek style in latest album Sainthood.
A band with a devoted cult fanbase but still not so well known outside of that, there’s more than enough hooks in the latest release to sink themselves into a wider audience, so best to ignore the likely X Factor voting sham on Sunday and go see this lot instead for some proper pop suss.
Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, Thursday November 12, 7pm, £35 - buy tickets
Ah, Will Young, the stuff of middle-aged housewives’ dreams!
Not only is he as lovely as dewdrops in spring for the feather duster brigade, but Will’s also an innocent pleasure for them.
Why, instead of having a short-sighted and tawdry fling as they might fantasise about with bad boy Robbie Williams - thus breaking the heart of their admittedly-flawed-but-on-the-whole-quite-a-nice-guy husband - they can instead breathe a heavy sigh as they imagine the swoonsome singer helping them do the sudoku while chuckling together at the latest outrageous comments on Loose Women. He’s like the noughties Cliff Richard! (Except not quite such a latent weirdo.)
In fact, Will's like a Terminator who's been made out of pure loveliness, his mere creation probably proving the existence of a benevolent higher power. And he's in Scotland to terminate all the nation's grumpiness and bad moods! How can you possibly resist?