Newport Centre doesn’t host that many gigs, so for one of rock’s biggest bands to visit is somewhat of a rare happening. The queue winds around the outside of a swimming pool giving off the impression that this gig is not going to be your usual affair.
Original openers Scar The Martyr withdrew a few weeks ago, so taking their place are Walking Papers (***). The fact that Duff McKagan (formerly of Guns N’ Roses) is present on bass is not lost on the ever expanding crowd, drawing a roar whenever he so much as coughs. Walking Papers croon and curve their way through their half hour set to incite mild interest in the standing section of Newport Centre. For the seated section, it’s a nice warm-up to the night’s rock anthem theme.
The incense sticks are laid out at the side of the stage and an heir of inevitability shrouds a now capacity crowd which can only mean one thing: Ghost (*****) are about to grace us with their presence. Launching straight into hits from their new album, Ghost hurtle through ‘Infestissumam’ and ‘Per Aspera Ad Inferi’ before returning to the old material on ‘Con Clavi Con Dio’, ‘Stand By Him’ and ‘Prime Mover’. The Nameless Ghouls are a murder of crows only being restrained from eating the audience by the thought of what will happen to them if they disobey Papa Emeritus II. The skeleton pope doesn’t have much to say, but that just adds to the pantomime atmosphere as Ghost conjure up effortlessly a show with a fraction of the production costs. Ghost‘s new EP is all covers, and we’re treated to ‘If You Have Ghosts’, which is surprisingly melodic and peaceful despite the dread and fear being preached. Despite the fact that Papa Emeritus II seems to think it’s Friday night, there are very few blotches on Ghost‘s performance, rounded out with a singalong to the excellent ‘Monstrance Clock’.
It seems like 90% of the crowd are balding middle-aged men, but maybe that’s just because Alice In Chains (*****) have been going since the dawn of time. Immediately, they put to bed any worries that they may be over the hill, powering into ‘Dirt’, ‘Again’ and ‘Check My Brain’. There are enough riffs to sink a cruise liner and enough cool to send Miles Davis running to his mother. It really is just hit after hit for the first 45 minutes or so, featuring ‘Man In The Box’, ‘Hollow’ and new song, ‘Phantom Limb’. After the initial onslaught of groove, Alice In Chains slide onto another track with their other talent: slow songs. The acoustic guitar comes out without pretension for ‘Got Me Wrong’, ‘No Excuses’ and ‘Nutshell’. It’s probably a good thing that the second half of the set is quieter songs, or Newport may be in danger of being sliced off from Wales under the force of it all. ‘Stone’ only comprises about five notes, yet it’s heavier than anything any death metal band could ever muster.
Fourteen songs comprise the main set and there’s not a bead of sweat on Jerry Cantrell (guitar) or William DuVall‘s (vocals/guitar) foreheads. The encore comes in the form of the inevitable ‘Down In A Hole’, ‘Would?’ and, of course, singalong anthem, ‘Rooster’. Alice In Chains have come to the end of another tour and the world has run out of superlatives to describe how absolutely fucking brilliant they are.
Written by MG Savage (@MGsavagewriter)