Live Review: Staind - Hard Rock Cafe, New York
Wed, 20 Aug 2008 07:34:48
On the eve of the release of their breakthrough smash album Break the Cycle, Staind played an intimate acoustic set for MTV in the network's studios on Broadway in New York City. It was 2 AM and pouring rain in addition to being this writer's birthday. The band's likeably maudlin songs lent themselves to a smooth translation in the unplugged realm and brought the band, which sold nearly a million records that week, closer to its crowd while on the cusp of radio superstardom.
Fast forward seven years, Staind still orbit the moody rock n' roll planet, and they continue to occupy left-of-center venues nestled amid the hustle and bustle of Times Square and its gridlocked foot traffic in order to promote a new album. Partnering with the Hard Rock Café—all wood floors and walls festooned with priceless memorabilia and artifacts— Staind played the show as part of the venue's "Ambassador of Rock" global tour. It was a one-off show where the band showcased its newest wares and a smattering of hits to the media.
Before the band hit the stage, Jon Wysocki's kit appeared to be perched on a tower of Marshall stacks overlooking the crowd. It was clear that Staind would be plugging in for this set. Having seen the band play at defunct venues from Manhattan's Lower East Side, such as CBGB and Coney Island High, eventually working their way up to arena tours, this particular show brought them full circle. Taking the stage, crooner Aaron Lewis gravitated towards his spot at center stage, playing an American flag guitar and proceeding to erupt into "Price to Play," a semi-hit from 14 Shades of Grey. The band is older and wiser, the machine is more well-oiled. Their hair is longer, except for Lewis, still sporting his trademark shaved head. He played a guitar for most of the set, as well. Lead guitarist Mike Mushok still rocks out with a teenager's intensity, like it's the first time he's jamming these songs in front of people. While Mushok's guitar tone may be gloomy a la Jerry Cantrell, he's a hoot to watch as he fuses with his strings. "Fade" followed with its slower burn but similar emotional heft. Lewis aims his delicate bald head down, with gaze averted from the crowd. There was not much movement or verbal interaction with the crowd, which is fine, since the guy possesses a set of pipes that go on for days and miles.
The new song "All I Want" from The Illusion of Progress is easily the most upbeat Staind song ever, in terms of its tempo and cadence but it retains the band's signature style. The radio smash "Outside," which dominated the airwaves in the earlier part of the century, was a highlight of the set, with its easily relatable melancholic vibe. When Beetlejuice, a member of Howard Stern's famed "Wack Pack," took the stage for a sec, he helped Staind show off their sense of humor, something not often manifested in their music. Lewis even broke into a brief rendition of the song Beetlejuice wrote for the Stern show. Lewis went solo for a cover of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" and for a few seconds, the crowd joined him and nearly eclipsed his powerful voice by singing along! The new single "Believe" was sprinkled among other massive Staind hits, including "It's Been Awhile." The closer "Mudshovel," saw Lewis ditch his guitar—to which the ebullient fan sitting next to me claimed, "No guitar for Aaron? Always a good sign that a heavier song is coming!"—and move about the stage singing his guts out. While Fred Durst, the man responsible for finding and signing Staind may have disappered from the music and pop culture radar, Staind and their music live on.
— Amy Sciarretto