Last Friday night I went just outside of Sacramento to see post grunge rockers Creed at the Thunder Valley Casino. It was the first time I had been to that venue and see a band that started after the 80s. A rock band with members younger than me? Does such a thing exist?
It was a mildly hot summer day, a factor I didn't think would matter much until I got to Thunder Valley and saw the bands were playing at an outdoor stage. So much for air conditioning! The Thunder Valley venue was one of the most confusing I've been to despite it's very simple floor plan (the seating area is essentially box shaped). There are two entrances, one for VIP and the other for general admission. The problem is the tickets are sold with section and seat numbers, usually the opposite of general admission. So we (I went with my brother in law Brian. Hi Brian!) couldn't tell right off which entrance to take since it seemed we were neither VIP or general admission. It took a venue worker to explain there was no assigned seating, only assigned seating sections. You bought a ticket to sit in a certain area, but where in that area was a free for all. So we (and I'm sure others) took our time getting into the show thinking we have seating reserved only to find out we don't. We still were able to get seats we wanted though.
That's because we arrived ahead of the crowd, even though we went in a few minutes after the 7:30 start time. Surprisingly, we had already missed the first opening act. But we caught all of the 2nd opening act, Eve To Adam. Even with the terrible band name, E to A wasn't bad. They played perfectly competent hard rock in the vein of headliners Creed. The growly vocalist was a decent showman, but the guy that really made that band go was the bell bottomed guitarist. E to A's axe man had a steady variety of riffs and some nice sizzling solos. As a band there wasn't enough there to truly stand out, still their performance won me over and I liked their set.
During Eve To Adam's show the two video screens started a text scroll that many fans took as their opportunity to be Maury Povich. A lot of funny messages about how someone wasn't really someone else's father or dumping a person at the show went by.
As night began to fall Creed took the stage. Creed exists in a rare space of the music world - a successful group that is absolutely detested by their detractors. Just about a month ago the guy on the TMZ tv show was slamming Creed as the worst music ever - and that's not even a music program. They stand with artists like Michael Bolton or Winger, considered overblown and cheesy beyond redemption.
For me personally, when it comes to Creed I like the hits and a handful of album tracks. I don't love everything they do, some of their music sounds like generic post grunge and the tone of constant struggle (which is the main feeling I get from all their music) can get wearing. But when they get it right, I have a good time. Fortunately for me the band played a lot of the songs I liked that night. Creed's set list was:
Are You Ready / Torn / Wrong Way / What If / My Own Prison / Unforgiven / Beautiful / Bullets / Say I / Faceless Man / A Thousand Faces / One / What's This Life For / With Arms Wide Open / Higher
encore: One Last Breath / My Sacrifice
Creed opened fittingly and predictably with "Are You Ready" from the Human Clay album. Ah, the sound of 2000. We had just survived Y2K, 9/11 hadn't happened yet and the economy wasn't tanking. The audience got on their feet and more or less stayed there throughout the show. "Torn" followed before slowing things down with "Wrong Way". I had read online before the concert that they were focusing on songs from the first two albums, which worked great for me since I barely remember much from the second two albums. Still "Wrong Way" was starting to bore me, which is why I'm glad they kicked into "What If".
"What If" is one of Creed's songs that I like a lot, it has a monster swaggering groove. The song answered a question I had about the texting crawl on the bottom of the screen, I wondered if someone could get the chorus of the song on screen while it was still playing. To put me out of my misery, I saw the words "WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF WHAT IF" scroll by during this song. Awesome.
Though it wasn't really needed, lead vocalist Scott Stapp mentioned something about the 90s before going into "My Own Prison". You know, as much slagging as Scott Stapp has gotten in the past decade I've gotta say that live Stapp is the show. He is the only guy on that stage (except maybe the drummer but that guy is hidden behind a drum kit) that works the crowd and puts energy out to the audience. Yes, that energy is overblown and sometimes made me laugh a little but still he gets a crowd going. When the music would get all thrashy Stapp would crouch down and sharply move his arms about like one of those guys that signals airplanes with flags. Then if the music got soft, Stapp would sort of sway and cup his hands together like a ballerina holding a flower. While the rest of the band played fine, they more or less alternated walking left or right on stage. The guitarist even gave away most of the solos to an unnamed 2nd guitarist. Man, when you can afford to hire someone to do your guitar solos for you, you know you've made it.
Stapp made a comment that the next song once represented his outlook on life but now he feels it's the opposite...sorry...antithesis before ripping into "Unforgiven". Which made me wonder why they played it, tho it was nice to hear a fast song. "Beautiful" followed, which reminds me that I was surprised by how many women were there to see Creed. In my head, I thought their audience would be a bunch of aging frat guys mixed with some holy rollers (Creed used to be known to have a Christian following at one time. Though that part of the audience may have been turned off by the famed Stapp sex tape.) In reality, about half the crowd were women who wanted to party. That's not a bad thing, just different than what I expected.
"Bullets" shot by (yes, intentional bad pun!) as the first song from the Weathered album made it's appearance. Then things got snoozy with the run of the mill heavy rocker "Say I" and slower jam "Faceless Man". I was more bored with the live version of this song than the album take, something about it just didn't connect live although Stapp added a little extra emotion in his vocal towards the end.
The pace stayed slow for "A Thousand Faces", the lone representative of the Full Circle disc for the evening. And then we hit the 7th inning stretch. It was hitsville after this.
"One" got things revving again as the sold out crowd held their pointer finger in the air in unison. Then Stapp made a plea for the children on "What's This Life For". Then Stapp made a dedication to his own child before starting off the monster hit "With Arms Wide Open" (A song that to this day makes me think of that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Captain Picard is trapped on a planet with an alien captain who can only communicate in metaphors. Darnak and Tanagra on the water. Darnak and Tanagra on the ocean. Darnak and Tanagra in the sea. You know which one I mean?) People were singing along like crazy through this patch which raised the energy to its peak on "Higher".
Seeing the band play "Higher" reminded me that it had been a long time since I'd seen a group this young play. Creed were able to plow through their set pretty handily, Stapp himself kept his energetic delivery up and his voice showed no weakness until this song. Even then it was just a slight weakness, I'm used to old guy bands that need to pace themselves between fast songs and singers who can't hit their most powerful notes anymore. Pretty cool to see a young band again in that respect.
After a break the group's encore was a one-two punch from Weathered. "One Last Breath" went well as Creed ended the show with their epic smash "My Sacrifice". Visions of Jeff Hardy doing a swanton bomb off the top an extremely high ladder went thru my head (the song was heavily featured during a WWE pay per view one year).
And that was the end of the concert. My only disappointment was that "Overcome" wasn't played, since I really like that one. Creed gave a good concert, if I was a Creed superfan who lived for every song I probably would have given the show 9 Dixie barks. But as I said I'm more of a hits guy when it comes to Creed, the album tracks left me staring at the text message board for entertainment no matter how well they were played. Which means I give the concert a