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★★★★☆
(43 Reviews)

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  • Don’t get me wrong. Alice in Chains “Live” is a great album. But I wish there were more songs on it.There are fourteen, so it’s well worth the price; I certainly didn’t get cheated. But AIC had so many great songs, more than enough for two such albums. Wonder if Columbia will try to put out another album sooner or later?The album starts off with “Bleed the Freak,” from the album Facelift. Very good rendition; showed Layne Staley in top, energetic form and showcased the emotional power of AIC to perfection.Next was “Queen of the Rodeo,” a sort of updated version of Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” for the 90s and beyond. Staley’s “Queen” is more than a bit confused; his idea of fighting is to “scratch and bite,” he wears nylons and makeup because his mother didn’t know how to raise a boy, but . . . don’t think he’s a woman just because he’s a transvestite, as Staley growls, “Last night I met your mother . . . I hope you understand, ’cause she did!” (profanity omitted because I don’t want to get the review banned)Very funny song. Showed AIC’s humorous side to perfection.Many other great songs are here, including “Angry Chair, “Man in the Box,” “Love, Hate, Love,” “Rooster,” and “Would?” “Man in the Box” is done at a slightly faster tempo, with Staley ever-so-slightly emphasizing different words in the delivery. Cantrell harmonized with Staley flawlessly, once again adding a different dimension than just about any other rock band could claim. Staley effortlessly hit the high notes in this song, something that was more troublesome later in his career; in a way, it encapsulates the message even more firmly, putting this song into historical perspective.Simply put; as every other reviewer has touched on, Staley had a drug problem. Died from them. Even here, he knew it, and wasn’t happy about it; “Man in the Box” is a lamentation about his own situation, people in similar situations, and also points out the danger of trying to put _everyone_ in the same box. The sarcasm evident in this song often goes unnoticed; too bad, because Staley, Cantrell and the others were smart men, and very artistic. Hopefully one of these years the rock community will wake up to it, and they’ll get voted into the Rock Hall of Fame, or something.(Granted, too late for Staley. But better than nothing for the rest of ‘em.)My personal favorite, though, is “A Little Bitter.” This, like “Get Born Again” from “Nothing Safe,” would have been great to hear in a studio performance, on a new album. Staley’s raw, tortured voice works very well here, showing a man who’s more than a bit upset with how his life has went. From the instrumental intro, which almost seems to be crying, “Remember me! Remember me!” to Staley’s haunting, evocative vocals about how his mind “shouts out for rest,” and how he wonders if his life is a test sent from the Almighty, and asks aloud, “Oh, Lord, is this a test? Was it fun creating me? My God’s a little sick . . . “, it’s a superlative song about a tremendously unhappy man, reaching out to others who also were unhappy, trying to show *them* the way while he couldn’t find his own.To me, that encapsulates Staley’s life. I read the Rolling Stone interview he did; seems to me that songs like this, “Don’t Follow” from “Jar of Flies,” and many others, were Staley’s way of saying, “I’m messed up and I know it. Please do not do this; find another way, for this does not work.”Because Staley was able to articulate his pain, and the rest of AIC was able to help him give it beauty, meaning and purpose, he may have done more than just be a great rock singer. He might have given many people the idea that there were more people than usually believed that were depressed, and helped them realize they were not abnormal.If so, Staley’s death in 2002 is even more of a shame and a waste, because he had great gifts. Even more so than seen here.Rest in peace, Layne Staley.Oh, and for the rest of you, buy this album. It’s definitely well worth the price, gives the idea of what a live AIC concert was like, and is a well-balanced collection.If only Columbia will put out another album from the vault, preferably with Cantrell, Kinney and Inez’s input, I’ll be satisfied.

    Posted on February 14, 2010