An inspired tribute to a legendary band

Jerusalem-based ‘Alice In Chains’ tribute band brilliantly recreates group’s seminal 1996 MTV acoustic performance.

'ALICE IN CHAINS’ tribute band ‘Rooster’  390 (photo credit: Courtesy Eliyahu Sidikman)
'ALICE IN CHAINS’ tribute band ‘Rooster’ 390
(photo credit: Courtesy Eliyahu Sidikman)
When I first heard a group of Jerusalem musicians were going to attempt to recreate the magic of Alice In Chains’ classic 90s MTV Unplugged acoustic concert and album, I thought, “Good luck.”
However, when the tribute band, called Rooster, finished their late-night debut performance, I gave them a standing ovation.
The legendary all-acoustic performance first aired as part of MTV’s popular Unplugged series in May of 1996.
Tragically, it was one of the band’s last gigs with celebrated lead-singer Layne Staley, who died of a heroin and cocaine overdose in 2005, at the age of 34.
Staley, whose haunting vocal style and dark lyrics helped propel the band to stardom during the peak of the 90s grunge movement, founded the beloved alternative/metal group with lead-guitarist Jerry Cantrell in Seattle in 1987.
Despite having enormous shoes to fill, Rooster did not disappoint.
Indeed, during their 13-song tribute at Blaze Bar – a popular downtown- Jerusalem rock showcase for local artists, owned by brothers Yehi and Yanir Zaken – the group had a packed house in the palms of their hands.
“We chose to do our debut at Blaze Bar because Yehi and Yanir are diehard Alice In Chains fans, and the first time I heard them was when Yehi played me the MTV Unplugged album over a year ago,” said Rooster’s founder, veteran Jerusalem musician Eliyahu Sidikman.
Sidikman, who also fronts Long Time Gone, Crystal Ship, and Lijah And The Firecats – all tribute bands, respectively dedicated to Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Doors and Cat Stevens – said hearing Alice In Chains’s much-heralded 90s acoustic performance that day inspired him to recreate it with other local musicians.
“I floated the idea to mega-singer Gershon Fischer, from the [Jerusalem] band Pritzat Disc, and a year later we finally got to do it,” added Sidikman.
Performing a set list featuring the original band’s seminal hits “Would,” “Down In a Hole,” “Them Bones,” and perhaps the group’s most famous song, “Rooster,” lead-singer Fischer, et al, delighted the mostly 20-something audience.
Backed up by Sidikman on guitar and vocals, lead-guitarist Aryeh Even Tsur, bassist Orr Gedalya and drummer Avi Friedman, Fischer tapped into Staley’s brilliant, and evocative, 1996 performance.
To be sure, the audience – most of whom were infants when the original group recorded the acoustic concert – took in the masterful rendition with the same enthusiasm as Gen-Xer’s, like myself, did nearly 20 years earlier.
Sidikman, who plans to debut Rooster in Tel Aviv in the near future, said it was important for him to have the first concert in Jerusalem, where he lives.
“Of course we’re going to take it to the usual places in Tel Aviv, and do a special performance at the Esso Bar in Rishon,” he said. “But we owed it to all our friends and fans at home to prove that Jerusalem knows how to rock.”