Alice in Chains / A Sleepless Night at the MoPOP Museum in Seattle

5 December 2020

In these ‘unprecedented’ times we have all missed our live gigs so much, so when I found out Alice in Chains were broadcasting a live streamed concert to celebrate their induction into Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture, I got myself straight on the virtual guest list.

Words: Sara Harding

I have worked with AIC from back in my Headbangers Balls days at MTV to the present as a writer for MetalTalk and Alice in Chains remain one of the most successful and influential American rock bands of all time.

This band’s legacy and their loyalty to fans is immense, so it was an honour to witness this well deserved accolade live and loud, whilst raising money for Seattle’s MoPOP museum.

The event has already raised over £500,000 for this amazing museum and charity which supports kids to play music.

Jerry Cantrell told MetalTalk: “This band started 33 years ago, three and a half miles down the road in Ballard… it is a pretty amazing journey that we are still on.

“There are so many great artists and friends who have contributed shout-outs and performances. It has been a really cool experience and William, Sean, Mike, and I would like to thank everybody. And, as we accept these awards, we want to remember our bandmates as well, Layne Staley and Mike Starr. Wow, what a night!”

Alice In Chains, Leeds, 2013. Photo Mick Burgess
Alice In Chains, Leeds, 2013. Photo Mick Burgess

I gave myself an ‘Access all Areas’ pass, got a Starbucks caffeine delivery and turned my lounge into a moshpit to experience this tribute to Alice in Chains.

This was going to be a late night as it all kicked off at 2am GMT and I was there to witness it digitally with millions of other Alice fans.

The stream begins with Jerry, Will, Sean and Mike, masked up, on the Sky Train to the MoPop museum. As they whizz past the Seattle skyline, the group pays tribute to Hendrix with a couple of acoustic numbers, whilst sipping on a mandatory Starbucks as they head to the iconic MoPOP Museum.

In situ, Alice in Chains begin the celebrations at this museum’s Rock cathedral like location with the sonic classiness of ‘Your Decision’ – live and loud and totally justifying why this band are still around after 33 years. What a way to start a stream!

Tom Morello, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Mike McReady, Jeff Ament, the Cornell family, Krist Novoselic, Living Color’s Vernon Reid, Sammy Hagar, Davey Johnstone, Cameron Crowe, Mark Arm, STP, Les Claypool, Steve Fisk, Josh Klinghoffer and a woman I’m proud to call my friend, Susan Silver, all zoom in to salute AIC.

The award for best shout out comes from Robert Downey Jnr who lets us in on his fanboyness. And Metallica’s James Hetfield for congratulating them on their ‘Autoparts’ award.

Cantrell and co serve up some crazy and comedic cameos throughout the stream and their banter from various locations around the museum is TV gold – Ben Stiller had better watch out.

The all star musical tributes kick off with Nancy Wilson performing ‘Rooster’ from a studio cut with retro vintage 90’s AIC, featuring the late, great Layne Staley and Mike Starr. Wilson’s smoky, bluesy voice compliments the song and demonstrates what a brilliant songwriter Cantrell is, and what pipes she has. Goosebumps!

The AIC dudes then take a tour of the Hendrix Room of the museum which is a real insight into their inspiration, “To be here in our home town and in this building with this music history, for us to be the artists is a trip” says Cantrell.

Up next is a supergroup like no other – Corey Taylor, Taylor Hawkins, Dave Navarro and Chris Chaney performing ‘Man in the Box’. Sans Vocoder and ironically unmasked, Slipknot’s Corey Taylor et al make this song their very own – you get that these Rock stars are massive fans of AIC.

Duff McKagan and Shooter Jennings collaborate on a truly jaw dropping version of Alice in Chains ‘Down in the Hole, with Seattle’s McKagan performing bass, drums and guitar in a classy black and white VT. Jennings’ voice soars and gives the song a country blues vibe – pure class. Ayron Jones and Martin Feveyear also join in later in the song and give it yet another layer. Inspired.

Korn take on ‘Would?’ and give it their unique Korn spin from their studio bubble. This hybrid blends the unique sound of the Bakersfield boys and paired with this iconic song, it is seriously slick.

‘Brother’ featuring Nancy Wilson, Liv Warfield and Mark Lanegan take us on a triple vocal journey through the song – Warfield’s soul filled voice gives it an incredible richness taking this song to another sonic level.

Fishbone unite to give us their unique take on ‘Them Bones’ complete with saxophone riffs! The band raises the energy up to 11 and by now and I am up and off the sofa and bouncing along.

David’s Van, The Human Missile Crisis, Katyrose and Talaya – teen acts to come out of MoPop charity – play some classic Chains, This is a testimony to the work the charity do and represents the young talent to come out of Seattle. The future of Rock is in safe Seattle hands!

Dallas Green’s acoustic rendition of ‘Rain When I Die’ is followed by Liv Warfield powering out ‘Put You Down’ – a gospel Rock Funk chanteuse like no other – when she plays London, I am going to be first in line.

Mastodon take on ‘Again’ rocking out on their Persian rugs to create unique sonic madness with their trio of vocals. Absolutely classic Mastodon – brutal and badass.

Soundgarden’s Kim Thayal teams up with Shaina Shepherd completely rocking ‘It Ain’t like That’. This is the grungiest track yet and again it is a sister singing. ‘Drone’ by Seattle icon’s Krist Novoselic and Kim Thayal is next on the setlist and this duo deliver a stellar sound.

Lily Cornell Silver is up next and simply stuns with a piano/vocals version of ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’, featuring Queensryche’s Chris Degarmo.

Proud mom and Alice in Chains former manager Susan Silver, introduces her daughter and tears at the heartstrings with a lovely story about Lily wanting to know what ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’ meant, when she was younger, so they ‘phoned up uncle Jerry’.

Susan says that her daughter performing this song is now “the music world’s full circle”. With Lily’s DNA, I knew this would be a moving and magical performance and, yes, I did shed a tear for those grunge pioneers no longer with us.

And as if by music magic, what follows on is a touching tribute to Mike Starr and Layne Staley with ‘Nutshell’ performed emotionally by Mark Lanegan and Maggie Bjorklund. Next up, Ayron Jones and Jeff Fielder take on the AIC baton with an incredible interpretation of ‘Heaven Beside You’.

‘Angry Chair’ follows on the setlist – featuring members of Soundgarden with Tad Doyle, Mike McCready and Meagan Grandall. They smash this song with a killer guitar dual. Then it is over to Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan who takes to the acoustic guitar and vocals to pay a solo tribute with ‘Check My Brain’.

The mighty Metallica beam in from San Francisco to deliver a four screen epic performance of ‘Would?’. Great friends of the band, the ‘Tallica train takes us on a journey of a classic Alice in Chains.

Then it is back to the museum for one last song from the legends themselves with ‘No Excuses’.

With nods back to that epic MTV Unplugged performance, this is Alice in Chains at their best. These MoPOP Awards and superstar endorsements and live performances are testament to the band and their incredible 33 year journey.

The live stream ends with drummer Sean McKinney’s visit to Mike Starr’s family and Layne Staley’s parents with their posthumous MoPOP award – this is the most touching part of the stream. To see their families celebrating the band and the fact that they still love the guys and their music, really touched me.

Right now I need to find the tissues and enjoy a post gig banana just like Mike Inez does.

Once this pandemic is over, I am heading straight to Seattle to experience the museum myself.

Alice In Chains, Leeds, 2013. Photo Mick Burgess
Alice In Chains, Leeds, 2013. Photo Mick Burgess

MoPOP Executive Director Alexis Lee told us: “It was an amazing evening honouring Alice In Chains and raising a tremendous amount to support our non-profit institution.

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of the artists who participated as well as our generous supporters who are funding our efforts to serve our community, reach young people and preserve our shared pop culture history during this difficult time.”

Get your own virtual Triple A pass to this once in a lifetime gig by watching it on the link below, get out your bananas, get the coffee on and enjoy your very own Night At the Museum, and remember to donate and support the incredible work MoPOP is doing for future rock stars.

The full show is available to view on MoPOP’s YouTube channel and contributions to support the museum’s exhibitions, programs, and educational work can still be made at www.MoPOP.org/FoundersDonation.

ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF POP CULTURE (MoPOP)

Now in its 20th year, MoPOP is a leading-edge nonprofit museum in Seattle, dedicated to the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary Pop culture. With a mission to make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect our communities, MoPOP reaches multigenerational audiences through their collections, exhibitions and educational programs.

At MoPOP, artists, audiences and ideas converge, bringing understanding, interpretation, and scholarship to the pop culture of our time. For more information, visit MoPOP.org.

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