Sitting On An Angry Chair: When Layne Staley Toured From A Wheelchair

Rex Aran Emrick, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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As the old adage dictates: “The show must go on.” In recent years, everyone from Dave Grohl and Axl Rose to Zack de la Rocha and Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway have soldiered on through concerts while condensing with broken bones and other ailments by performing while sitting down.

While the Foo Fighters and Guns N’ Roses frontmen expressed goodwill among each other by sharing a (literal) throne, the Rage Against The Machine opted to rest on a less opulent road case. As for Barney, he picked a sensible chair to orate from like the good British bloke he is. Whatever the furniture may be, one thing is for sure: Layne Staley did it first.

Shortly after the 1992 release of their grunge metal masterpiece Dirt, the Alice In Chains frontman spent several of the band’s support dates with Ozzy Osbourne either stuck in a wheelchair or forced to rely on crutches. Careless use of an all-terrain vehicle backstage at an Oklahoma City show resulted in Staley running over his own foot and breaking several bones.

A particularly amazing show during this run was at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena in Oakland, California. Alice In Chains played a killer 11-song set in which Staley alternately sang on crutches, in a wheelchair (which had been dubbed “The Angry Chair”) and, occasionally lounging on an onstage sofa. The footage from the gig is oddly surreal and beautiful. You can watch it below

“Layne didn’t break his voice, and he doesn’t do any high kicks or dance moves,” drummer Sean Kinney explained to Rolling Stone during the tour. The band took the incident in stride, even going as far as to print up an official tour shirt with an X-ray of Staley’s broken foot emblazoned under the band’s logo.

“I really like the wheelchair effect,” commented then-bassist Mike Starr. “I don’t know, it somehow makes Layne look more … evil.”