Alice In Chains are people who understand pain. In the time surrounding the death of their enigmatic frontman Layne Staley, the band took the necessary time to search their souls and decide where they should go. At a tsunami benefit in 2005, Jerry Cantrel, Sean Kinney, and Mike Inez took the stage together for the first time in the better part of a decade.
Speaking to Lars Ulrich about the benefit, Jerry Cantrel said, “It was no grand plan. It was just something that kind of like we did a thing and then we thought, well, let’s take another step. And then we did another thing and then, all right, we’ll take another one. And it was just that sort of incremental things strictly going by feel, which is how this band has always operated.”
For their second appearance back from hiatus, Alice In Chains appeared on the VH1 television special Decades Of Rock Live to perform a heartbreaking rendition of their hit “Would?” with none other than Pantera’s Phil Anselmo and Guns ‘n Roses’ Duff McKagan.
Phil Anselmo, himself all too familiar with the toll of addiction and loss, was a natural fit for Staley’s unfillable shoes. A genuine vulnerability is evident in his facial expressions throughout the performance, abandoning any sense of macho posturing for the sake of perfect clarity and reverence to the material.
Thus set off the second phase of Alice In Chains. The band would soon regroup with vocalist William Duvall and set about continuing their beautiful work in the face of tragedy.
It’s of note that Anselmo and McKagan are far from the only big names to join Alice In Chains on stage for “Would?”. Also in 2006, James Hetfield teamed up with the band at Germany’s Rock am Ring Festival. Staley’s death would later serve as the inspiration for Metallica’s Death Magnetic. Per James Hetfield:
“The theme of our new album [Death Magnetic] is that we’re all gonna die sometime. Just like the poles of a magnet, some people are drawn to death and others are repulsed by it, but we all have to deal with it.
Lyrically, it started as a bit of a tribute to Layne Staley and all those who’ve martyred themselves in the name of rock and roll. But it grew and evolved from there.”
Watch Anselmo, McKagan, and Alice In Chains “Would?” performance below: