AIC were supporting GNR at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, and fan-shot footage captures the moment when McKagan, armed with a Les Paul in cherry sunburst rather than his regular squeeze, the P-Bass, joins Jerry Cantrell and William DuVall on guitar – the three electric guitars in unison a la Lynyrd Skynyrd giving the Dirt-era track extra oomph, making it even more doomy.
Written in tribute to AIC guitarist Jerry Cantrell’s father, a Vietnam veteran who was nicknamed “Rooster” as a child, the track is for many the ür-AIC jam, a song that could scarcely be any more personal to Cantrell, and appropriately brings all of his key influences to the fore. It has the swampy wah pedal fatalism of Black Sabbath tracks like Electric Funeral, that early ‘70s sense of bespoiled promise. It has a groove.
And in some people’s opinion, namely the great Seal, it’s sexy, too. When he popped up on one of Amoeba’s What’s In My Bag YouTube segments, Seal fished out Alice In Chains’ Dirt on vinyl and discussed the seminal 1992 album’s impact, singling out Rooster.
“There are some great songs [on Dirt], the obvious one being Rooster that Jerry wrote about his father coming home from Vietman,” he said. “I love their artistry obviously but there’s a real sexiness to their music – it’s dark, it’s beautiful, it’s melancholic but it’s really sexy. It’s weighty.”
If McKagan’s Vancouver cameo with Alice In Chains brought the unfamiliar sight of the Guns N’ Roses bassist with a Les Paul, DuVall and Cantrell’s instrument choices on the night were more as we might expect, with DuVall on his Framus signature guitar and Cantrell playing his go-to G&L Rampage, which has been a stalwart through the years.
Rooster might be one of Cantrell’s most personal compositions but it has historically offered him and Alice In Chains the chance to welcome a guest onstage.
This wasn’t even McKagan’s first time. In 2006, when DuVall made his live debut with AIC, McKagan joined Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart onstage with Cantrell and co for Rooster. He played a black Les Paul on that occasion. In 2018, Robby Krieger of the Doors – and hero and sometimes golf partner to Cantrell – guested with the band.