Jerry Cantrell Avoids Gloom of Alice in Chains


The future of Alice in Chains may still be in limbo--while the band never officially broke up, it hasn’t released new material in six years--but lead songwriter and guitarist Jerry Cantrell continues to make the kind of moody and melodic rock ‘n’ roll that made the group a grunge hero when it rode the Seattle sound wave back in the early ‘90s.

Cantrell’s show at the Whisky on Monday flaunted deft guitar work and fervent vocals on AIC songs, selections from his 1998 solo release, “Boggy Depot,” and new material whose radio-friendly hooks and well-crafted rhythms could easily bring him back into the spotlight.

Of course, it was the Alice in Chains songs that really got the crowd excited. Cantrell, with a band that included Ozzy Osbourne, bassist Robert Trujillo and Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin, plowed into some old favorites, including “No Excuses” and “Them Bones,” inviting the audience to sing along, which they did happily. Surprisingly, some of the best-known hits--”Man in the Box,” “Rooster” and “Would?”--were missing from the set, but no one seemed too disappointed.


While most of his old band’s tunes had a dark, bittersweet feel--due mainly to singer Layne Staley’s tortured croon--they seemed more cathartic than depressing with Cantrell taking the lead. Staley and Cantrell’s harmonies evoked a deep intensity on their records, and Cantrell’s solo efforts are equally reliant on combined vocals--he even had a backup singer on stage. Still, Cantrell’s new material has a freshness that will likely take him beyond Alice’s gloomy grunge image.

* Jerry Cantrell plays March 16 at the Galaxy Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, 8 p.m. $13.50. (714) 957-0600.