DARIEN LAKE – “The last of the rock stars/When Hip-Hop drove the big cars.”
So sang Bono during “Kite,” a tune from U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” album. He might’ve been talking about the two headliners of the 2013 edition of the “Rockstar Energy Uproar Tour,” which took over Darien Lake’s Performing Arts Center on Sunday. The Uproar Festival offers rockers who regret the day technology took over from guitars, bass and drums a chance to have their cookies and eat them, too.
Who would end up headlining had to be a toss up for this festival that kicked off at a little after 2 p.m. Would it be alternative rock icons Jane’s Addiction? Or grunge-related modern metal realists Alice in Chains? Clearly, both bands deserve iconic status. Jane’s deserves the credit for changing the game with “Nothing’s Shocking,” the 1988 release of the same name. But Alice in Chains brought the most blatant of marriage of ’70s heavy metal with the early ’90s punk-metal-groove rock marriage that we all now call frunge.
As it turned out, Alice headlined, but Jane’s took the top slot.
The latter band’s set seemed impossible to top when they played it, and during Alice’s set, proved to be exactly as much. It wasn’t that Alice in Chains didn’t bring it – the band most definitely did, particularly singer William Duvall, who had the misfortune of replacing the late Layne Staley in Alice. Duvall has been with the band for a good while now, a period encompassing two quite strong studio efforts, and he is an incredible singer. But replacing Staley in Alice in Chains is a bit like replacing Robert Plant in Led Zeppelin. A tough gig.
Led by singer Perry Farrell, Jane’s Addiction took the stage and then proceeded to burn it down. Opening with “Underground” from last year’s “The Great Escape Artist” album, the band brought a restless, muscular and distinctly fiery vibe to the stage. Farrell was singing in full voice, his high tenor much more lithe and on-point than one might expect from a man in his 50s.
Guitarist Dave Navarro was no slouch, either. Arriving bare-chested, Navarro defied gravity and time all night long, with his physique and his playing in equal measure. “Mountain Song” married Led Zeppelin to the Stooges and did so incredibly well; “Just Because” suggested that Jane’s should be taken as seriously as Radiohead in the contemporary art-rock sweepstakes; and a lengthy, sprawling, immensely psychedelic take on “Ted, Just Admit It…” brought the house down. Farrell, Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Martyn LeNoble played a set that would make a group of 20-year-olds sit up and take notice.
Headliner Alice in Chains did not disappoint. Opening with a new song in the form of “Check My Brain,” the group then tore through a set of classic and new material. AIC is unique in modern rock, in that the new stuff is just as strong as the old stuff. A set that included tunes from its album “Dirt” – generally included in the list of the greatest hard rock albums of the ’90s – as well as more recent fare including “Your Decision,” the band brought it home hardcore. The marriage of Duvall’s lead vocals with Cantrell’s harmony vocals was simply impossible to deny.
Earlier sets from Coheed & Cambria and Walking Papers, among others, lent to the inclusive feel of the festival. Walking Papers played early, but the band’s set was well attended. Perhaps the fact that former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and former Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin are members of the band, or perhaps the fact that the band’s eloquent blend of hard rock, grunge and blues that is the self-titled debut release from the group has already taken hold. I’m going with choice No. 2.