December 15, 2011
House of Blues - Dallas
Dallas, TX USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by Crystal Prather
Will the real Aaron Lewis please stand up, please stand up! I mean that statement with the greatest respect, but seriously, what is going on with the Staind front man these days?
As guitarist Mike Mushok was gripped with maniacal rage, whirling about with his instrument attacking the opening chords to "Spleen," Lewis sauntered on to the stage looking as though he had just stepped off a John Deere tractor instead of a tour bus.
Sporting a full beard, baseball cap, simple jeans and tee shirt, as soon as the singer got in front of the microphone, he transformed himself from ‘good ol' boy" to death metal rocker. After screeching a few lines (something Lewis would do a few times throughout the evening), the signature sound of his voice finally broke through. Reality briefly prevailed on the second song when Mushok settled down to perform the opening to "Right Here." But the on again, off again, personalities of Staind would keep this audience guessing as to which band was going to appear for the next song.
Honestly, this sold out crowd at the House of Blues could care less whether it was heavy metal, or just plain mellow, Staind appearing stage this evening. As long as they got their prescribed, sing-along doses of lighter, modern rock that put this band on the map ten years ago, they were content. Mushok, however, seemed to be at his happiest when he was releasing his inner guitar thrasher. The ear-shattering material from the group's recently released self-titled album was evidence of that. The heavy, opening guitar sequences to new songs like "Eyes Wide Open", "Failing", Throw It all Away" and Paper Wings" sent the musician into a delightful frenzy. Given his druthers, it's a state of mind he (and new drummer Sal Giancarelli) would have gladly stayed in the entire night had it not been required to come down to earth and play the requisite ‘mandatory' hits. But that's okay.
The new record is the best thing the band has done in years. Bassist Johnny April's backing vocals on the songs heard tonight were exceptional, aside from the encore, "Something to Remind You", that Lewis performed alone. In fact, when the spotlight was squarely focused on the Staind vocalist, it provided some of the evening's best highlights.
Over the years, Aaron Lewis has written lyrics to songs that have deeply connected to the public at large. The singer's own identity crisis, chronicled in songs like "For You" and especially "Outside," really resound with people. Here's a case in point. For most of the evening, the huge throng of people standing towards the back of the packed House of Blues floor were busy chatting amongst themselves, talking about who knows what. They completely ignored the fact a live show was taking place. As soon as Staind broke into their hit singles, the chattering would stop. Everyone would start singing the verses to the music, now totally immersed in what was taking place on stage. It was indeed a strange sight to behold, but a telling one all the same.
Midway through the show, a solo Lewis transformed himself into a good ol' boy midway through the set to perform his patriotic penned tune, "Red, White and Blue" and "Country Boy." Again, both songs were well-received by this Lone Star crowd, particularly "Country Boy." I'm not saying Lewis has a future in the country western genre, but he certainly has the songwriting skills to pull it off if he so desires.
The two moments that stood out were the intense sing-a-longs for "Outside" and "It's Been Awhile." Like I stated earlier, this sold-out building loved the familiar parts of Staind. The unfamiliar, well, in all fairness, it was quite good as well. I don't particularly care for the screeching Aaron Lewis on vocals, but I will say there isn't anything more hauntingly beautiful in rock and roll than the sound of this artist's voice when he slows it down. This Vermont native can literally put an audience into a trance with the words he sings when of course, he's actually singing. The death metal side of his voice isn't so appealing, but again, there was something about the songs from the new record that were quite captivating.
Musicians go through peaks and valleys in their career. Staind is no exception. The peak for them obviously was 2001's Break the Cycle. The valley was 2008's The Illusion of Progress. I say that because the band didn't even bother to play any songs from the record, including the two hits "Believe" of "This Is It." Instead, the new release took center stage this night. The music contained elements that borrowed from a little bit of everything in Staind's past. On stage, they reveled in the hard rockin' direction the music was taking them in.
Whatever phase Lewis and Company are entering right now certainly seems to be an uplifting one to say the least. Tonight, Staind took the audience on a walk down memory lane with a few detours revealing hints of things to come. I doubt the non-chatting crowd actually listening to the show would disagree. It's been awhile, but the wait was worth it.
Eyes Wide Open
So Far Away
Throw It All Away
Red, White and Blue
It's Been Awhile
Something to Remind You