Live Review: Aaron Lewis of Staind at The Sycuan Casino in El Cajon
Mon, 08 Nov 2010 06:35:22
Staind frontman Aaron Lewis doesn't need much to put on an unforgettable show.
With a stool, a few acoustic guitars, a couple smokes and a bottle of water, Aaron can take the audience on a ride that rivals any large scale production out there. Less is more in the case of Aaron's acoustic shows, but it's mainly because his original songs feel so timeless. Whether it's the Staind cuts he performs stripped down, his solo material or the spur-of-the-moment covers, Aaron delivers everything with a powerful, palpable passion—and a sharp sense of humor when necessary.
On Saturday night at the Sycuan Casino in El Cajon, Aaron gave the crowd a night to remember primarily because he made them a part of it. From the second he walked on the stage, he engaged the packed theater.
Someone yelled, "How are you?" Aaron responded, "I'm good! I'm just trying to get shit out of my pockets. Let's do this!"
Pulling out his guitar pick and putting down his freshly lit cigarette, he strummed the opening to "So Far Away" from Staind's 14 Shades of Grey. He belted out the hook flawlessly, while smoke billowed in front of him from the withering cigarette. Without any accompaniment, Aaron's vivid lyrics resonate immensely, and they stand as equally transfixing as the acoustic hum. Next up, Aaron began Break the Cycle's "Fade," infusing raw emotion into every word. Bathed in red lights, a giant American flag glistened behind him. It was a suitable setting because Aaron's solo shows are modern Americana at its best…
With airy open chords, he strummed through what may be the best rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time"—ever. Aaron hit the high notes perfectly, while adding grit and gusto to the refrain. His take on the track would be perfect for a John Hughes flick—starring Clint Eastwood. Upon the final strains of the song, Aaron was all smiles, "That's the first time I've actually tried playing that one. I've fucked around with it before, but that was the first."
Cyndi would be proud. Somebody in the audience screamed out for "Rainbow Connection." Aaron looked out, "Yeah, 'Rainbow Connection,' really?" He hopped into an utterly awesome Kermit the Frog impersonation, and the room went bonkers with applause and laughter. Then "Right Here" resounded with an arena-filling prowess.
Aaron prefaced a poignant "Epiphany," saying, "This song's about having ADD. I gave you a whole new perspective on it."
Live, Aaron held the notes airtight, practically bleeding soul right through them. "Everything Changes" followed with the same sensitive power. Aaron smiled again, "What should I play on this coast?"
Another fan yelled for 4 Non Blondes. He smirked, "I can do it. Rejoice in some 4 Non Blondes, but you've got to sing along. Deal?"
Half the crowd unflinchingly obliged, so Aaron decided to compromise and play most of "What's Up." He did his best Linda Perry, and everyone cheered. That song hasn't felt this intoxicatingly awesome since 1993—and it may never again.
Aaron then embarked on a trip back east. His bus driver Ben Kitterman joined on guitar for a rousing rendition of Ray LaMontagne's "New York City's Killing Me." Aaron infused a certain darkness into the track that made it hit even harder, especially with Kitterman dazzling on the flourishes of slide.
Aaron especially shined on the material from his forthcoming solo offering. With Kitterman in tow, he entranced via the hypnotic "Vicious Circles." Aaron can tell a story as well as Kurt Cobain or Hank Williams, revealing just enough to allow for personal interpretations. Painting a vibrant picture lyrically, "Vicious Circles" came to life and took hold of everyone. "Massachusetts" transported everyone to the woods of one of the most beautiful states in the union—while showing Red Sox pride. As Kitterman wailed, "Tangled Up In You" sounded pristine. Somebody asked, "What tuning is that?"
Aaron replied, "I think it's an old Jimmy Page tuning from that Led Zeppelin song, 'That's the Way.'" It's appropriate because "Tangled Up in You" was just as somberly magical as the Zeppelin classic. "Country Boy" blazed brilliantly as Aaron told another sonic tale.
Introducing the next tune, he explained, "This is a song I used to play a long time ago—17-, 18-, 19-years ago. I used to this before I met the guys in Staind. I'd do it in little clubs, pool halls, bars, nursing homes and bar mitzvahs. I'd play cover after cover all night, and then I'd do this. It was usually the cue for people to go to the bathroom, start talking to the person next to them or even leave. It seemed like nobody ever gave a fuck I was playing this song. It's funny, because this is it…"
He began plucking the intro of Staind mega-hit "It's Been Awhile" to an eruption of cheers, and the song soared with a fire directly from Aaron's heart.
However, the finale of his a capella rendition of "Intro" really drove it home. From the "thank you's" to the "fuck you's", the song encapsulated everything so magnificent about Aaron's musical catharsis.
Time after time, Aaron continues to prove why he's the singer-songwriter of this decade.
Where you there?
Read our most recent interview with Aaron Lewis here!
Check out Aaron's "It Takes a Community" foundation here!