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MUSIC REVIEW

Alice in Chains proves to be a force again

William DuVall (left) and Jerry Cantrell (here in New York earlier this year) led Alice in Chains through their hits and some surprises at Agganis Arena. William DuVall (left) and Jerry Cantrell (here in New York earlier this year) led Alice in Chains through their hits and some surprises at Agganis Arena. (Tom White for The New York Times/File)
By Scott McLennan
Globe Correspondent / September 24, 2010

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It’s taken a little time, but the reborn Alice in Chains has found its footing, as evidenced by an exhilarating show Wednesday night at Agganis Arena. Alice in Chains, Deftones, and Mastodon brought their A games to the event, making it one of the finer hard-rock packages to pass through these parts in some time.

While Mastodon’s intricate jams and the Deftones’ cathartic releases were spot on, special credit goes to AIC for topping this bill with a fierce confidence that cemented the power of a lineup featuring singer William DuVall.

AIC drafted DuVall in 2005 and his ability to echo the late Layne Staley, Alice’s original galvanizing frontman, was eerie. But with the release last year of “Black Gives Way to Blue,’’ AIC has jelled into more than a rehash. DuVall still nails the vibe of the Layne-era material, but now has his own swagger woven into the delivery. And with fine new material such as “Lesson Learned’’ and “Check My Brain’’ providing set highlights, AIC can once again assert itself as a force to be reckoned with, not merely respected for having once shaped the sound of modern rock.

Guitarist Jerry Cantrell let DuVall own the spotlight, but there was no denying who provided the heart of the show. Cantrell’s guitar work glowed and exceeded the recorded versions of songs. The opening sequence of “Them Bones,’’ “Dam That River,’’ and “Rain When I Die,’’ for instance, captured the psychedelic sheen that has long lurked behind AIC’s harder façade.

The band is feisty on tour, rejiggering the set lists from night to night. The Boston crowd, for instance, was treated to the tour’s first reading of “Love Hate Love’’ and heard the creepy deep cut “Sickman.’’ But AIC made sure to tap the hits. Drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Inez crafted a buoyant groove for “No Excuses,’’ and the band was masterfully sinister on “Rooster.’’

AIC proved itself greater than a mere token of the grunge era. Likewise, Deftones and Mastodon commanded attention with sets that brimmed with volume, precision, and passion.

Scott McLennan can be reached at smclennan1010@gmail.com.

ALICE IN CHAINS With the Deftones and Mastodon

At: Agganis Arena, Wednesday