Well, for thing, the fans of this stuff are strangely normal looking. I wasn't expecting the pit at Lollapalooza, but overwhelmingly, it's just regular guys (with emphasis on guys — hardly any girls at all).
We missed the first two opening bands, but we did arrive in time for Mad at Gravity, who were distinctly underwhelming, except for their fireplug of a drummer, who was just amazing. The state of the art of nü-metal has moved on from the crude posturings of Limp Bizkit; now the style seems to be having a technically good singer, relating lyrics of his doleful existence, while guitars soar and grind as needed, and the drummer does this vaguely progressive 6/8 kind of thing. It's all very competent but not very exciting. And the single they were pushing sounded too much like a song they played ten minutes earlier.
We had a little more hope for the next opener, Eudora, from Brazil. Hey, it would be cool if they sounded anything like Chico Science or Sepultura, right ? Well, no such luck. They were definitely more entertaining than Mad at Gravity, jumping around like the posessed, but frankly they weren't otherwise that distinctive. The singer sounded a lot like Layne Staley, Alice In Chains' recently deceased singer, and that was kind of… weird.
Finally, Jerry Cantrell came on, and even though I'm not a fan of most recent metal, his songwriting is always decent at worst, and there's nothing like watching the seasoned musicians he's got in his band show complete mastery of the form. Plus, here's something you don't even get at most pop shows these days: harmonies ! One song ended a capella and the effect was special indeed. Cantrell exuded a quiet authority; he's an exceptionally good but restrained guitarist and was cool enough invite a couple to watch from the stage after some yutzes tried to slam dance but only succeeded in kicking the faces of these unfortunate people. What a guy !
While the solo album he's got out is good, the last four songs of the show: "Man In the Box," "Angry Chair," in the regular set, and "Down In a Hole" and "Them Bones" for the encore, are all from Alice In Chains, the crowd really got into it, and it was great way to end the show.