Creed Bayou Music Center April 30, 2012
Villains are infinitely more interesting than heroes, and have way better origin tales. All human mythology features roguish baddies, who are actually more engaging than their lily-hearted counterparts. Kids of all ages dress up like Darth Vader and the Joker for Halloween.
There is a whole Broadway show based on the backstory of the Wicked Witch of the West, and nine times out of ten, magazine covers about Kardashians and serial killers outsell those with benign characters on them.
Creed has been Public Musical Enemy No. 1 for about a decade now -- the villains, if you will, to music fans who will tell you they suck -- and the only reason they will give is that it is because they suck. It's a curious phenomenon. These guys are now firmly installed as villains to a select group of people, as if they are audio terrorists of some sort who are out to destroy "good" music.
Monday night, I didn't see them burn any Of Montreal albums or Win Butler in effigy, though.
I will concede I am in the minority here in defending Creed, mainly because it gets really old hating something to fit in, and it makes some of you very angry. But my intentions aren't to be a contrarian for contrariness' sake. I legitimately like the group's singles because they are catchy, big and dumb, like all good rock and roll should be.
If you want to read a more winded and measured review of a Creed and Nickelback double-header, check out Chuck Klosterman's recent Grantland piece here.
It made me feel slightly less crazy for being in my position on Monday night. But I had done this before with different results.
If you push the haters, they will finally point out, with some prodding and profanity, that the stage show, lead singer Scott Stapp's measured vocal and physical mannerisms, and the overall overwrought tone of Creed's music are what bothers them. But let's consider that all of those things are no more rote than with most any other group with plastered street cred running these days but that's okay, "because it just is."
All this seems to be based on a Generation X edict, which went out sometime in the '90s, that rock was this earnest thing and that to be still flashy was somehow something to be maligned. I have seen Eddie Vedder -- who I still adore -- do the same things Stapp did onstage last night, just two or three years ago, and he was doing them 15 years before that.
Dial up a Jim Morrison clip on YouTube right now, I'll wait. There's the double standard again. Nothing is new, everything is recycled and nostalgia is a permanent feeling.
But that's what makes being a student of pop music interesting, seeing different versions of the same thing. Even when Stapp pointed at the crowd like Patrick Bateman screwing the hooker in American Psycho, you had to laugh.
Maybe he was doing it on purpose. You don't want to know that he knows that you think he's more serious than he actually is.
As for artistic delusions, well, here is the link to Pitchfork if you think that Creed is the only delusional group in rock history.
Creed is performing their first two albums, 1997's My Own Prison and 1999's Human Clay, over two consecutive nights. Monday night, the group played all of Prison, plus a handful of cuts from other albums.
I spent the first three songs near the photo pit in front of the stage watching the band. Strange to be so close to something so many people hate, while thousands of people roared behind me.
Looking back at Prison as a whole piece of work, it's louder and more muscular than the stuff that would come after from the band. As Stapp had said in my interview with him a few weeks back, this tour has given them a chance to revisit a side of them that most people forget about.
You still hear guys and girls admit that they loved Prison, but lost the plot after it. Or you know, they lie. The imaginary you of the past is cooler than the reality.
A friend who is an audiophile texted me during the show to ask how they sounded, and I replied they were on point technically. No one wants to hear that Stapp's unfettered voice is as powerful as a jet engine, or that the guitars made the walls bleed. There I go again being a contrarian.
Personal Bias: In my profession there are things that I cannot change, like the snobbery of joyless folks who can't accept that not all art is geared to them or even in their target audience and bask in things that aren't for them. Remember, I am the same guy who gladly drank Faygo straight out of the bottle at an Insane Clown Posse show and smelled like the sticky stuff for days. Simply put, I would rather be where the cool kids aren't.
The Crowd: This was actually a classic-rock crowd more than anything else. Very few people under 30, it seemed, extremely excitable and a lot of gray hair. That's not being ageist, it's stating a fact. Everyone was genuinely happy to be there and they aren't trying or posing for an overseer. It's nice to be around that. I saw maybe four of the fabled "bro-dudes" that people speak of, but then again you can see those at a Death Cab for Cutie show these days. I would still rather have one of them in a foxhole with me.
Overheard in the Crowd: Me, singing. Loud. Okay, maybe ironically, but still I knew all the words, so I can try to mask it with all the humor I want. The fact remains that I know the words to most of their songs. I've taken off my mask. Now how about you take off yours?
Random Notebook Dump: I would talk shit about Stapp being sweaty less than five songs into Monday's set, but a sweaty Stapp is sort of part of the Creed motif and fits, right?
One More Thing: Right before the encore, myself and photographer Marc Brubaker began a "Creed" chant that soon ignited the whole crowd on the floor, so there's that.