SHOW REVIEW: Jerry Cantrell
October 10th -- Electric Factory (Philadelphia, PA)
By: Paula M. Sherman
Original photos by: Kim Carlton and Cheryl Krawietz
I have a tale to tell. True story. It's about multiple jam-filled climaxes and devastating rip-rockin' explosions that brought the house down. The man responsible for all this havoc is still on the run. I advise you to read on because this notorious leather-bound rocker and his band may be hitting a city near you.
The last time I saw Jerry Cantrell (of Alice In Chains) in concert was in July of this year, at the E-Centre in Camden, New Jersey. He and his band fronted for Metallica, along with Days Of The New. Cantrell put on a great performance amidst diehard Metallica fans. He gave them a taste of his solo efforts from his release, "Boggy Depot", laced with some beloved Chains tunes. But on Saturday night, October 10th, diehard Cantrell fans flooded Electric Factory in downtown Philadelphia looking for their fix.
Did you ever think about the difference between a stadium concert and a small club concert? It's obvious the benefits a small venue has to offer any band and their audience. The intimacy is astounding. But it's hard to know what to expect or be prepared for. I vividly remember Cantrell's Camden performance and how stimulating his set was executed. But being in a small club such as Electric Factory with this talented Seattle rock boy and his enthusiastic band, the result was a night of intoxicating caught off-guard Rock n' Roll madness!
Intoxication started immediately at the bar on the second floor of the club as soon as the doors opened! I found a great seat overlooking the stage. Through the night we were all graced with a fine waitress which I must applaud. She was friendly and had a great memory. She expertly weaved her way through billowing masses to give us our drinks all night, always with a smile on her face.
Cantrell brought along his own front bands on this stretch of his solo tour. The first to hit the stage was "Cold", a rock band from Florida. They had the unfortunate disadvantage of catching the audience while they were fueling up. While this band proved they could rock, I witnessed a lot of distracted people talking and not paying attention. The pit was motionless. This sadly happens to most bands that are in the first position. Either they're dynamic enough to hold the crowd's attention or they are merely tolerated. In my opinion, I felt this band was accepted by the Philly crowd, but they were overlooked. After their set, I went around and mingled with people and asked them what their thoughts were regarding "Cold". The response was similar for everyone. I got a lot of, "They're cool, but we're here to see Jerry!"
During this break in the evening, before the next band hit the stage, I relaxed with friends. We were excited by a brief appearance by Cantrell's drummer, Sean Kinney (also of Alice In Chains). Kinney came out onto the second floor from a private backstage entrance with a friend looking for beer. He walked right passed me. Being a huge Alice In Chains fan, I had to contain myself. I resorted to following his path with a stare that resembled a deer being caught in headlights. He was thankfully not noticed by the crowd and found his way to the bar without being molested by fans. This is one of the reasons I didn't try to talk to him. I know what it's like to be on a journey for beer and it sucks when you encounter detours!
The next band, Flight 16, pumped the place up. I noticed a significant difference in the crowd once this band hit the stage. I seriously doubt it had anything to do with the fact that Cantrell was next on the list. This band from England came out and triumphantly slapped everyone around with their brand of rock. The pit was jumping and the audience let them know how much they dug the groove. I didn't have to go around and ask for opinions on this band. I could hear it all around me and the opinion was overwhelming. Everyone loved Flight 16! I had a chance to meet the lead guitarist of this band which I will talk more about later on in this review.
The time had come for Cantrell to perform his magic late in the evening. When he hit the stage the place erupted in a loud ear-shattering welcome that put a big smile on his face. Cantrell's power resides in the highest notch on the volume control. He feeds off a crowd's energy. As he stated to the crowd in Camden, "The louder you are, the louder we are!" I got the impression that every person standing around Cantrell looked like a stick of dynamite to him. The look on his face was mischievous, like a little kid getting ready to light a fuse of the biggest firecracker he could find on Independence Day!
But Cantrell surprisingly took it easy at first. After asking us how we were all doing and hearing our boisterous response, he opened with the smoothing rumble of "Devil By His Side". The intro to this song could hardly be heard over the crowd's roar. Immediately the audience started singing along, "Running down an old elusive high, ONE MORE TIME!" Before breaths could be catch, Kinney spilled the drum beats to the classic "No Excuses". If the roof wasn't in need of repair, it would be now.
Cantrell drifted right into the delicate deep riffs of "My Song" and hypnotized us into a sweet delirium. He maintained this hypnotic rhythm by going into the very sensual "Satisfy." Bodies swayed to the peaceful riffs of the song's verse till Cantrell jolted us with power contained in his guitar solo. He continued this teasing musical foreplay with "Got Me Wrong." Cantrell beamed with each passing minute of this song as he heard the audience sing along with him. And on the last drum beat of this song, the place rocked with it's first major explosion.
But Cantrell wasn't quite ready to set off all the dynamite yet. It was like he wanted to calm us down a bit, which I thought was strange. But he did it beautifully with "Hurt A Long Time." Bodies again were swaying, eyes were closed, people were hand in hand with clenched fists up in the air; while Cantrell caressed us with the elegant riffs of this stunningly performed song. Afterwards, noticing that he had the audience in such a narcotically dazed state, Cantrell was sporting a deleterious look on his face as he heard us yell and beg for more.
I thought the foreplay may have been approaching a threshold. Cantrell looked he was ready to wreck the place, and he blew into kick-ass version of "Dickeye", which is now getting radio airplay. This song put everyone into a frenzy! The mosh pit had been full of motion from his first song, but now it was feverishly pulsating. Bodies were surfing all over the place! At this point I knew he was midway through his set and I had no idea what was next. Everyone around me was so pumped up.
After pushing the crowd to the edge, Cantrell took it back a notch with a tantalizing version of "Brother" and a strong "What The Hell Have I?" (from the "Last Action Hero" soundtrack). These two songs went by so damn fast. Not only the was the pit rockin', the second level was also doing the same thing. People were on stools, including me, and we were out of our minds and totally under the music's spell.
Cantrell spoke to the crowd occasionally but it was hard to make out what he was saying due to the deafening amps that were set to kill. He yelled to us and we screamed back to him and then he ripped into a loud rattling of "Them Bones." It was time to bring the house down and push us all over that raving edge. Without a chance to recover, "Keep The Light On" was next. I tell you, without exaggeration, the place was gone! This Seattle rocker and his incredible band caused the type of destruction the likes of which sent us up and out of the atmosphere, and we weren't coming down any time soon!
But with the sweet echoes of the darling traveling song, "Between", he beckoned us to come back down. The exquisite whiney riffs cushioned our thrilling fall. The swaying again commenced and everyone wildly assisted Cantrell with the lyrics. I needed a cigarette after that! Cantrell then ended his set with "Heaven Beside You", which felt more like an aphrodisiac than a final song.
The fever was high when Cantrell and his band left the stage. The bellowing roar brought them back minutes later. Cantrell stood there and screamed at the top of his lungs, "LOUDER!", and we obliged him as Sean Kinney was presented with a black bra that was thrown on stage. I know the owner of that bra. She's a girlfriend of mine who came to Philly from Texas to see this concert. Needless to say, we now call her the Texas bra slinger! WHAT A THROW! Kinney put the bra on with a smile and sat down behind his drums as Cantrell started off with the exciting intro to "Cut You In." The primed 'git yur asses in gear for this finale' explosion was in progress! And just like in the video for this song, it ended with a magnificent and spectacular guitar-raging, horn-blaring, drum-blasting gust that left everyone gasping, "HOLY SHIT!" I'm not exaggerating! People around me were happily dazed and confused!
It was time to revel in the glorious destruction that was over in a blink of an eye. Quite pleased with the evening's festivities, Cantrell thanked us all for being such a great audience and told us he and his band had a great time. Then Kinny stood up as Cantrell started off with "Dark Side Of The Moon", and he directed us to sing as loud as we could. The flicker of lighters lit up the place during this song. No one cared that their fingers were being fried off because those lighters flickered steadily to the end, till the band said good night and left the stage. Anyone who had a voice left let go it.
Electrifying isn't a good enough word to describe any of this. Everyone left the place completely satisfied, still pumped and glowing! The things I heard people say on the way out of the venue are best left up to your imaginations. Let's just say, everyone had a fantastic time!
But the night wasn't over yet. Not by a long shot. The party continued in the parking lot near Cantrell's tour bus. The crowd was well-behaved and stayed behind the barricades and reminisced over their own individual experiences they had just been filled with. Then band members came out one by one, starting with Unity, Cantrell's keyboardist. We talked with Unity a little bit and we mentioned to him that we didn't remember him in Camden. He wasn't upset at all that no one really knew him. He told us that he hooked up with Cantrell's band towards the end of the Metallica tour. A most pleasant man who sports a cool looking hat, Unity signed autographs for us and then made his way onto the bus. Guitarist Chris DeGarmo, formerly of Queensryche, walked around the parking lot signing autographs.
Sean Kinney approached the barricade and also started signing autographs for fans. He signed his name on my arm next to Unity's signature. Sean hung out and joked around with us for a while. He posed for pictures. I got to ask him one question, which was, "How do you like all this adoration?" He smiled at me and exclaimed, "I LOVE IT!" Spoken like a true rock star! He partied with us a little while longer and then waved to the fans before hopping on the bus.
Then the moment we were all waiting for. Jerry Cantrell came out to greet his fans. He also signed autographs, joked around with us a bit and let us take pictures. It was fun listening to him chat with fans. I was very much taken by his shy demeanor despite his rough biker-like exterior wrappings. I wanted to thank him for such a great show. But my mind went blank when he approached me and stood in front of me. He's very tall. I was looking at my arm with the signatures I had obtained. He had his pen in hand ready to sign. I looked up at him and he smiled down at me and I said, "Hi." That's all I could get out of my mouth. Then he put the cap on his pen and he hugged me! Needless to say, that took me by great surprise. And then he thanked ME for coming and then he disappeared into the tour bus. I never got his autograph. The hug was fine by me. Who needs an autograph anyway!
Hey! What can I say? I dig the dude and I was star struck! But I will say this. Jerry Cantrell is a very sweet man, in addition to being a very talented bad-ass rock star!
After recovering from the potent fun we had just experienced, a whole group of us just stood around and talked. The lead guitarist for Flight 16 came out and started talking with us. We had no idea who he was until we asked him. We were like, "Yo dude would you sign our tickets!?!?" He was happy to do so, and he signed my arm with a ball point pen that my husband handed me. His name is Paulo Obertelli, another sweet rocker who was more concerned that he was hurting me with the pen than anything else. He told us that because his band is from England, they have to make a success of themselves in the States before they will be noticed back home. We immediately told him that their set rocked and he was so happy we enjoyed the music. It meant a lot to him. Music means a lot to him and it was written all over his face.
Paulo told us that Flight 16 would be opening for Cantrell until his tour comes to an end in Seattle, Washington on October 31st. Then they will pick up and open for Days Of The New starting November 2nd in Austin, Texas. He mentioned that Flight 16 has their own web page, at http://www.Flight16.com. This group had been playing in London for like 6 years before coming to the States. He told us how exciting it is to tour and for the opportunity to have so many people hear their music. And he mentioned how tiring it all can be as well. It was well after 2 in the morning and he mentioned that he had to try and calm down so he could sleep. We thanked Paulo for talking with us and we said our good-byes. The buses were getting ready to roll.
Paulo may have needed his sleep, but we didn't! It was really hard to come off the high that filled us that night. Sleep occurred late the next day, but the high never went away. Nope, not yet!