Live Review: Aaron Lewis of Staind at The Pechanga Theater
Mon, 31 Jan 2011 09:10:42
"Did you miss me?" asked Aaron Lewis as he sat down on a stool center stage in front of a sold out crowd at the Pechanga Theater.
Exhaling a plume of cigarette smoke, the Staind frontman picked up an acoustic guitar from one of three open cases behind him and stared out at the packed venue with a subtle smile.
Strumming the first chords of Staind's "Everything Changes," Lewis began singing his soul out. Each note resounded impressively as he perfectly played and sang in tandem. The Staind classic instantly pulled everyone into a warm and real sonic embrace, and that grip wouldn't loosen until the two hour set had finished.
After the first song, Lewis joked, "Well, I hope you enjoyed the show." Laughs abounded, and his masterful balance between humor and heart kept everyone on the edge of their seats.
Few modern performers can captivate with all of the bells and whistles of a massive million-dollar pop production. Lewis can with simply three guitars, a giant American flag backdrop, and a seemingly endless pack of cigarettes. In fact, there's something extremely classic about one of his acoustic shows. You could hear it on the gorgeously haunting "Please."
He chillingly intoned, "Who the fuck do you want me to be?" during the song's bridge, and he sent shivers through the venue. He can exorcise anger, despair, and sadness just as effectively with an acoustic guitar as he can with a barrage of distortion. That's the mark of a timeless artist.
However, Lewis gave "Home" from Staind's breakthrough Dysfunction a folk-y sense of soul as he lightly strummed the guitar and elevated the bridge with a poetic prowess. Switching gears, he covered Blake Shelton's "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking." He flawlessly engaged country mode, giving Shelton's tune a personal grit and gusto. Prefacing the song, he laughed, "I didn't write this song. I fucking wish I did. I definitely like it though."
His version gave the song a whole different edge. Rolling down that country road further, Lewis busted out a brand new track entitled, "75."
"I wrote this yesterday," announced the singer. However, he executed the song so brilliantly that it felt like an old staple. Built on elegant slide and pedal steel guitar tones from Ben Kitterman, Lewis carried the lilting, unshakable chorus. The song's refrain could resonate in the sticks or in the city it's so goddamn powerful and catchy. Lewis is going to have to cut another solo record ASAP just to get this gem out.
Lewis imbued a tangible darkness into Ray LaMontagne's "Jolene," delivering it with a palpable honesty. Somehow, songs feel even more real when Lewis sings them. Shortly after, he broke into a few lines from "La Bamba" before a beautiful rendition of "Anywhere But Here." His forthcoming solo EP, Town Line, officially hits shelves on March 1st, 2011, and he represented it well on Saturday.
Kitterman set the stage for "The Story Never Ends" with more divine playing as Lewis churned out another unforgettable hook. Colored by ethereal slide shredding from Kitterman, "Vicious Circles" soared on the strength of Lewis's unbreakable vocals. Before "Zoe Jane," Lewis went on, "I've done some pretty cool fucking things. I've done bong hits with Cheech." Laughter erupted, and then he talked about how his daughter inspired the song and how having children was one of his proudest moments. Reeling back once more, he chuckled, "Doing bong hits with Cheech was pretty fucking cool though!"
"So Far Away" evoked Led Zeppelin and The Beatles with a unique flair that was distinctively Lewis's. His current single "Country Boy" received just as much of a roar from the audience as "Outside." Then of course Lewis went through a slew of covers including Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Guns N' Roses's "Patience," which saw him do a staggeringly uncanny Axl Rose impersonation. However, nothing compares to his take on "Rainbow Connection."
"It's Been Awhile" sparked a massive sing-a-long, while "The Corner" from Staind's The Illusion of Progress illuminated just how enduring his work is. Lewis capped everything off with a microphone-less "Intro." The closing cut from 14 Shades of Grey kept everyone transfixed once more.
The crowd will no doubt miss Aaron Lewis after that show. Luckily with Town Line out March 1st and a new Staind record on the horizon, he's not going anywhere anytime soon.
Check out our most recent interview with Aaron Lewis here!
Have you seen Aaron Lewis live?