Creed at the Paramount Theatre, 5/19/12
Eric Gruneisen Creed last night at the Paramount Theatre. Slide show: Creed in Denver.
CREED @ PARAMOUNT THEATRE | 5/19/12
There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who can be open-minded about Creed and those who cannot. It's fair to say that the majority of the mainstream media falls into the first category, and perhaps for good reason: The '90s all-stars have had almost two decades to prove their point. But to write off its blowhardery would be to ignore the people in the velvety, semi-packed seats of the Paramount Theatre last night. And if you are attending a Creed concert in 2012, more than a decade after the Christian rockers transformed from pop culture saviors to dudes with god complexes, you are getting exactly what you're paying for. And you're paying for rock.
Eric Gruneisen Like a Storm last night at the Paramount Theatre. Slide show: Creed in Denver.
That rock includes the next generation of Lord-praising angst-rockers with heavy-handed devil metaphors. New Zealand outfit Like a Storm looks like Mötley Crüe and sounds like Godsmack, while Eve to Adam pens curse-word Christian lyrics referencing Satan while retaining the gall to cover Alice Cooper's "School's Out." Between the two of them, they had roughly one hundred guitar picks, which they tossed (like a storm) into the crowd.
Thank God (no pun intended), then, that Creed happens to have a song called "Are You Ready?" The rowdy Human Clay and live show opener functions as an unapologetic call to arms, particularly when you A), witness the amount of chest-pounding and rock-fisting Scott pulls together before he even sings, and B), you are ready. The track literally counts its audience into amped mode while presenting Scott with the ability to sum up the band's life story even as he redrafts it: "Heroes come," he growled into the mike, whipping it around much like a limp water hose, "and heroes go."
Human Clay, the album Creed played in its entirety last night, sold almost twelve million copies in the U.S. alone and served as the intro to the band's radio heavy-hitter Weathered and then a six-year M.I.A. period in which the act grew apart, broke up and settled into relative obscurity.
In 2009, the outfit came full circle with a reunion tour and an album called, well, Full Circle, and three years later the group re-approached square one, touting its first two albums in sequence across a nostalgia tour of the country. But while Weezer pulled the same stunt with indie gems Pinkerton and the Blue Album, Creed is churning out overloaded stadium rock in the same tapestry-covered venue where David Sedaris once cracked jokes about his vacation home. The performance lacked nothing in emotion (Stapp chewed his bottom lip so consistently, it might be a stunt double), sweat equity (You'd see fewer rock fists at a Dio tribute) and sound quality (every growl reached its most guttural zenith), but it missed the mark in self-awareness.
Throughout the album deep cuts and the non-album hits that augmented them -- "One," "My Own Prison," "One Last Breath," "My Sacrifice" -- Stapp, guitarist Mark Tremonti, drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall channeled their angst of yesteryear. As the reunited quartet and its über-pumped stage guitarist pounded through the hits, the audience took breaks to recover in their seats. And those seats were not full. Left of center, one lonely lighter traced Stapp's figure through the dark as he grinned wolfishly at his cubs. "Are you seeing this?" that gaze seemed to ask. "Check this out."
This is a lighter show in an iPad world, and Stapp is an overtly earnest, occasionally oblivious leading man in a script dominated by blogs and iTunes sales. His deep snarl, which he must practice by chewing marbles and Laffy Taffy without ever reading the jokes, is exactly what it always was, very Vedder, a little overwrought and a lot dynamic. On his knees in the front row, Stapp coos out the intro to "Higher": "I was feeling this song from a fan who visited Denver, and it really lifted me higher, man."