All Hail Riff God: Jerry Cantrell Live At The Music Box at Borgata, Atlantic City, NJ April 2nd, 2022

It had been nearly twelve years since I last saw Jerry Cantrell alongside Alice In Chains in Madison Square Garden. Before that I’d seen Alice months earlier at Terminal 5. THAT show was an absolute religious experience, as well as a dream come true. NO ONE ever imagined that Alice would ever get back together following the death of lead singer Layne Staley. It’s hard, even now, to describe how surreal their return was and still is.

But then there’s Jerry’s solo career. See, there’s a reason his solo career holds a major significance in my life: because if it weren’t for hearing “Cut You In” I would’ve never bought Boggy Depot. If I never bought Boggy Depot I would’ve never been floored by not just the intensity of his rhythm and lead guitar style, but especially his songwriting. And if it wasn’t for any of that, I would’ve never given Alice In Chains a chance.

In my formative years, while my friends in high school were busy sucking Cobain’s dick long after he blew his brains out, I was enamored in everything involving the one Seattle guitarist that was overshadowed by, yet far more talented than that bitch. You’re reading that correctly for anyone who’s new this blog:

Fuck Kurt Cobain and anybody that looks like him. Read that again so it sinks in.

Jerry, along with Zakk, Dimebag, Mustaine and Iommi, had a MAJOR impact on my guitar playing and he still does today. With Boggy Depot, I worshipped Jerry when people either were unaware of him or simply didn’t give a shit. To this day that’s a crime.

That’s why I was looking more forward to this than I was when I saw him twice with Alice. I was FAR more excited for this than I was to see Zakk a few months ago! This was bound to be special because we all knew he’d break out songs that we, his TRUE fans, never thought we’d hear again. And he sure didn’t fail to deliver, although there was something about this that had me wondering, which I’ll eventually get around to discussing.

The Music Box, the Borgata Casino venue in which Jerry played was significantly smaller than what I imagined. It was far more intimate, which meant I’d be able to go to the front of the stage, which I did. That’s when I found this:

Tell me that isn’t sexy.

You bet your ass I was tempted to at least touch that wah pedal, but I chose not to.

The opener was Lola Collette, who’s sound is decidedly…different…from what you’d expect from someone opening for someone like Jerry Cantrell. She’s very talented, don’t get me wrong. But she does sound like she would’ve fared better in the mid 90’s. I can only imagine that she got the gig thanks to her history with Tyler Bates, Jerry co-guitarist for this tour. She’s a multi-instrumentalist, playing bass, guitar and one hell of a piano. But let’s just say that, even with that big nose of hers she received equal parts applause for her music and cat calls.

Then he came on…

The Setlist:

Your Decision (Alice In Chains/Black Gives Way To Blue)

Between (Boggy Depot)

Brighten (Brighten)

Them Bones (Alice In Chains/Dirt)

Psychotic Break (Degradation Trip)

Cut You In (Boggy Depot)

My Song (Boggy Depot)

Siren Song (Brighten)

No Excuses (Alice In Chains/Jar Of Flies)

Black Gives Way To Blue (Alice In Chains/Black Gives Way To Blue)

Had To Know (Brighten)

Heaven Beside You (Alice In Chains/Alice In Chains)

Prism Of Doubt (Brighten)

Angel Eyes (Degradation Trip)

Would? (Alice In Chains/Dirt)

Encore

Atone (Brighten)

Man In The Box (Alice In Chains/Facelift)

Rooster (Alice In Chains/Dirt)

Goodbye (Elton John/Madman Across The Water)

The Pros

I was never a fan of The Dillinger Escape Plan; but being in Jerry’s band has certainly provided Greg Puciato a chance to show what he’s capable of doing outside of his former band. No diving off of balconies or off stages into the ocean here! He was a tad pitchy at times, but you could FEEL his passion and energy and I now understand why Dillinger drummer Gil Sharrone urged Jerry to reach out to Greg. Greg was given the lead for “Them Bones”, “Man In The Box” and “Rooster” and he did things that not even current Alice singer William DuVall can do.

Jerry took advantage of his expanded band, which included a lap steel guitarist and a piano player to not only perform several tracks off Brighten, but to also pull out rarely heard Alice tracks. I never thought I’d EVER hear “Heaven Beside You” live! I certainly didn’t expect Alice to ever perform “Black Gives Way To Blue” live, and I honestly wish he didn’t pull it out last week. As of 2019, “Black…” is one of two tracks that trigger memories of my now deceased brother, so it was the last thing I needed to hear in a crowd that big.

As you can see in the video, he sure had a funny way of singling out everyone who wasn’t standing. I imagine everyone just wanted to absorb this ULTRA RARE moment of seeing Jerry in a solo capacity again, but he just was not having it. Jerry himself was in top form. His voice was incredibly strong and his guitar playing was fucking God-like. Everything he did looked absolutely effortless. Everything. I said it before, and I’ll say it again: YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A STEVE VAI LEVEL GUITARIST (No disrespect to Steve Vai!) TO CONNECT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE!!!!!!!!

The Cons

Notice how many Alice songs are on this setlist. This is an actual complaint a lot of people are making. I loved this show. I get that Jerry had a golden opportunity to pull out certain Alice songs and he took full advantage. But on the flipside, he had a HUGE opportunity to perform a deep dive of his solo albums – one of which is a double album (Degradation Trip)!!! – and he didn’t. I loved hearing “Psychotic Break” and “Angel Eyes” live. But it would’ve been a real treat to have heard “Hellbound”, “Spiderbite” or even “Pig”.

That’s just a minor complaint from me though. What matters more than anything else is that this was a very rare privilege. So, if you’re one of those YouTubers bitching that he allegedly didn’t sound good or he didn’t play enough of his own solo shit, just go get a fucking sex change already, you fucking cunts.

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