Alice in Chains’ frontman Layne Staley is one of the tragic figures of rock and roll, largely because he followed such a heavily mapped-out route. Artistry, fame, success, drugs, loss of control and ultimately death. It was a seemingly inevitable end.
The singer passed away in 2002 after a lengthy battle with addiction but his final appearance on stage with Alice in Chains would come years beforehand. Below we take a look back at happier times and seeing Staley in his prime back in 1996.
The band had been struggling to work with Staley and his copious heroin addiction in the years prior to their 1995 self-titled album—his addiction had made regular band activities an impossibility. But one opportunity they were afforded was to cut an MTV Unplugged album in the spring of 1996 and the group did not disappoint.
Staley had begun to get a grip on things and with the opportunity to cash in on their success out in front of them, the group jumped in head first. It meant they grabbed the chance to open for one of America’s most beloved and highest-earning rock acts of all time, Kiss and their hyped-up reunion tour.
Scott Weiland’s own drug use had forced the original band, Stone Temple Pilots out of the picture and Alice in Chains were ready to pick up the baton. Taking to the stage ahead of Kiss’ reunion was a daunting prospect and we imagine being faced with 40,000 diehard Kiss fans—likely all in make-up—is about as tough as it gets. But Staley and the band were more than a match for them.
The band opened their part of the tour on June 28th, 1996, in Detroit and after stops at Louisville and St. Louis they concluded their run on July 3rd at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri. The band’s 10-song set would be the last one they delivered in their iconic line-up.
Luckily, one legend kept his camcorder trained on the band during the entire 47-minute set which includes songs like ‘We Die Young’ and ‘Beth’. It was a starring performance but did capture one noticeable thing, Staley was far from peak physical condition.
When the singer steps up to close out the performance with ‘Man in the Box’ his fragility and clear weakness make for an extra poignancy. A short while after the show Staley suffered a severe overdose and was hospitalised, it would spell the end of Staley in the band. He would appear in 1998 for a few songs but the singer spent his final years away from the group.
The band regrouped with William DuVall on lead vocals and still tour to this day but something will always be missing. Below watch Layne Staley’s final performance with Alice in Chains.