Aftermath: Creed's Man-tastic Five-Man Dog Whistle at the Woodlands

Creed is the veritable Metal Machine Music of the well-heeled and seasoned hipper-than-thou music listener. You know the kind of person who will throw 17 obscure and forgotten punk bands in your face if you casually mention you prefer the Stiff Little Fingers over the Buzzcocks over a beer at a party for a mutual acquaintance? This is also the same person who can turn on MMM and claim to be able to "get down" to it, even though they won't admit they are doing and saying this out of purely contrarian ends.

If your metaphorical hoary third-eye isn't opened to whatever it is that Creed is trying to hip you to, you will never understand it and in fact you will just as likely reflexively hate it. Just as fleeting and vanilla-scented music fans will dismiss over an hour of Lou Reed's guitar feedback as little more than the machinations of a failed pop tune writer intending to shock and belittle, you may be able to hear a Creed song without actually hearing it.

For those more refined music aficionados, Creed might as well be a five-man dog whistle. That all being said, Aftermath can only report what he saw and felt at Friday night's show in the most literal terms he can grasp.

For one thing, lead singer Scott Stapp carries enough macho haughtiness and fantastical gestures to choke Freddie Mercury. For as tough and rugged as he tries to come off, changing his shirt three times and flouncing menacingly down his makeshift catwalk like some sort of sashaying La Bare-bred Bono came off as more high camp that "gggggrrrrahhhh" rawk star.

With his trademark Jesus hair by-way-of-Paul Mitchell now shorn into a piously shaved style, homeboy looked more like Colin Farrell halfway through a round of chemo treatment. Maybe shearing of the mane of man-tastic locks was meant as a grasp at penitence for past crimes that Stapp thinks he committed.

Before the band launched into song one, Stapp laid some righteous spoken-word jive down about faith and renewal and then re-introduced his band again for the second time around after their six-year layoff. For the anointed in the reserved seats and the great unwashed on the lawn, no time had passed, because this music never aged. It has been hermitically sealed in the minds of not only Creed but the die-hards. There will never be any danger of either evolving or panhandling for metaphorical change. "My Own Prison" sounded note-for-note the same on September 25, 2009 as it did on June 18, 1997.

One also can't discount the haze of imagery that Creed bombards you with during their live show. It's all too fascinating, with various fireworks and flames shooting about and the stage intermittingly ejaculating with white smoke. Stapp makes sure to take his shirt off to get into a praying position for "With Arms Wide Open." He would stop and grimace 'roidily and insanely into one camera, his eyes dripping with unsettling satisfaction.

We still can't get over how Stapp's frame of reference for a frontman seems to be himself during Creed's heyday of the late 20th century, albeit delivered to the nth degree now. During a time and age when even his contemporaries are trying to be less grandiose and fancy, the man is doing a full-on Vegas version of himself, from the aforementioned sweaty posturing to his own "YESSSSEAHH!" vocal which we even caught ourselves doing during the band's 20-song set. It's Stapp's own equivalent of the Elvis lip curl.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty