Atlanta’s newest venue, The Eastern, played host to iconic guitarist/vocalist Jerry Cantrell on an unseasonably warm Tuesday night in the city. Opened as recently as September 1, 2021, in the historic Reynoldstown neighborhood, this state-of-the-art 37,000 square foot venue sprouted up as part of the redevelopment of the Atlanta Dairies plant that supplied milk to Atlanta families and schools in the mid-1940s. The industrial-looking, reclaimed materials complex boasts retail shops and eateries, anchored by the multi-tiered Eastern that can handle a capacity crowd of 2,300 concert goers.
Out on the road in continued support for his 2021 latest solo release, Brighten, the 56-year-old Cantrell brought along Seattle-based Thunderpussy as his opening act. With a unique rock sound and powerful all-female presence, Molly Sides (vocals), Whitney Petty (guitar), Leah Julius (bass), and Lindsey Elias (drums) delivered an inspired set to the early audience. Dressed in a black flapper-style dress, Sides had a magnetic stage aura about her, and a captivating vocal allure and look that initially reminded me of a harder version of Amy Winehouse.
Thunderpussy’s performance included their first single, “Velvet Noose,” which was released on Mike McCready‘s (of Pearl Jam fame) HockeyTalkter Records in 2018, as well as their most recent banger, “Firebreather.” I am sure this tour exposure is only going to blossom into more opportunities for Thunderpussy once Cantrell wraps up, and they deserve it. I also want to give a quick kuddo out to Marietta, Georgia, native Petty who made sure two young female fans attending their first concert went home with guitar picks. Very classy.
3.) Never Know
4.) Put Your Hands on Me
5.) The Cloud
6.) Velvet Noose
7.) In Your Honor
As the clock crossed the 9:15pm hour, and with the general admission crowd now pressed closer to the barrier, the nine-time Grammy Award nominated Cantrell and his band took to the smokey, dimly-lit stage to the chants of “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.” On queue, the band kicked off the night with the tune “Atone,” the first single previously released from Brighten.
For those of you in your late 40s or early 50s like myself, Cantrell (as founding member of Alice in Chains) represents that pivotal era in music history that forcibly transitioned out of the decadence of the ’80s heavy metal rock scene and into the grungy and gritty sound of the ’90s. In fact, I entered my freshman year of college in August 1990 when Facelift (the debut album from Alice in Chains) was released, and had the pleasure of catching them on the Clash of the Titans tour in 1991. Seeing the late Layne Staley perform live is a concert memory that never escapes you, so having a chance decades later to catch the elder statesman Cantrell could not be missed, especially knowing that Alice in Chains songs are core to his performances.
To that point, Cantrell’s third song of the night, “Them Bones” from Dirt, the second Alice in Chains studio album, launched the crowd into an immediate frenzy. Not only did the expanded band of Tyler Bates (guitar), Gil Sharone (drums), George Adrian (bass), and Michael Rozon (pedal steel) deliver upon the Alice in Chains classic, but the signature guitar sound and vocal harmonies between Cantrell and Greg Puciato time-warped you back to 1992. It was simply mind-blowing.
While the evening progressed with a highlighted mix from Brighten, including its title track, “Siren Song,” “Black Hearts and Evil Done,” as well as songs from Cantrell’s prior solo albums Boggy Depot (1998) and Degradation Trip (2022), his Alice in Chains legacy was on full display. In fact, Cantrell let it be known that William DuVall (who eventually replaced Staley on vocals) had visited him during soundcheck earlier in the day. Sadly, he did not make an appearance during the show.
The band’s pre-encore set concluded with back-to-back Alice in Chains favorites and ’90s radio mainstays, “Man in the Box” and “Would?”. Whether it was the amazing acoustics of the venue, or simply the quality of artists traveling with Cantrell, you couldn’t have asked for a more emotional and authentic musical experience than during these two performances. The crowd sang along at the top of their lungs, while waving their cell phones in the air.
The band then took a quick break, returned to the stage and effectively put a punctuation point on the night by delivering the Alice in Chains hit, “Rooster” to conclude the evening. However, in a poignant acknowledgement of the passing of Scott Dachroeden, Cantrell’s long-time tech and tour photographer, he sang the Elton John tune “Goodbye” in his honor before the band took their final bows.
Cantrell’s Brighten tour will continue on through April 1, concluding in Tacoma, Washington, at the Pantages Theater.
2.) Psychotic Break
3.) Them Bones (Alice in Chains)
4.) Siren Song
5.) Cut You In
6.) My Song
7.) Check My Brain (Alice in Chains)
8.) Down in a Hole (Alice in Chains)
8.) Had to Know
9.) No Excuses (Alice in Chains)
10.) Black Hearts and Evil Done
12.) Angel Eyes
13.) Man in the Box (Alice in Chains)
14.) Would? (Alice in Chains)
16.) It Ain’t Like That (Alice in Chains)
17.) Rooster (Alice in Chains)
18.) Goodbye (Elton John cover)
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Elliott is a music photographer covering shows in Atlanta, Georgia, and the surrounding area. The highlight of his photography career was back in the early ’90s, when he sold Neil Diamond the rights to his negatives from a show and then purchased a set of tires for his 1979 280ZX during college with the money.