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(Dec '99)

In Concert
(Oct. '99)

(May '99)

Creed: Live at Irving Plaza by Roger Scott

The speed at which pop culture recycles itself today is amazing. It seems that record labels have already begun delving back to the early '90s for inspiration. One listen to Creed's amazingly successful, and somewhat dated sounding debut, My Own Prison, points in that direction anyway. Steeped in similarities to Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots, it's hard to imagine that music so familiar and indistinguishable can become the chart-rocket it is today. That is, until you see Creed perform live.

In person, Creed are just as one-dimensional – layering massive, plodding guitar riffs on top of tight, brooding percussion. Unlike the slightly monotonous disc, however, the live band gives their darkly textured tunes quite a kick in the ass, granting them a fist-shaking vibe absent on the CD. The audience seemed to love every minute of it, understandably so, because the heavy dynamics suit the material well.

With a near-blinding explosion of strobing flash pots, the four-man band from Florida sounded like a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral as they hit the stage, erupting into "Torn" while the packed house went ballistic.

Unlike the two opening acts for the evening (and many professional bands today, for that matter), lead singer Scott Stapp has a voice as powerful as the music that backs him up. His Eddie Vedder-esque wail could clearly be heard above the thunderingly tight riffing machine known as guitarist Mark Tremonti. Unfortunately, many of the riffs were predictable, as were many moments during the stage show. For instance, Stapp lasted for only one song before removing his shirt, exposing his lean, cut frame, and uttering such rock'n'roll clichés as, "Are you ready to rock!?" and the sure-fire applause button, "I didn't know we had so many friends here in New York!"

Again, for whatever reason, chalk it up to sheer charisma, Creed's audience simply couldn't get enough, with the female populous screaming like banshees in hormonally crazed lust. Not for nothing, if you're going to be utterly unoriginal, in today's overly critical mass media, you had better have the chops to back it up – and Creed has them in spades. How else could they get a platinum disc for My Own Prison, the sure-fire hands-down winner for the Deja-vu Disc of the Year.

"In America," their political rant, and "Illusion" received audience participation to the hilt, as did their smash hit and title cut, "My Own Prison," which they used to close their hour-and-20-minute show. Covered in sweat, the band returned to do a simple encore, the introspective and sedate, "One," and didn't embarrass themselves as many bands do by returning after the highpoint, only to blather in overkill.

During their set, they debuted two new songs, "Say I," and "With Arms Wide Open." Both were received favorably, which just goes to show that despite a rather disappointing lack of originality, Creed seems to have hit some collective nerve – hard. One can only hope that with their next disc, they put as much energy into penning some more distinctive songs, as they put into performing live.

The opening band, power-punk-pop Samiam, matched Creed's energy level, launching immediately into, "Full On," from their latest disc, You Are Freaking Me Out. As the title of their CD implies, Samiam knows one speed, all-ahead full. Their set, composed of ten tracks without much in the way of a varying tempo or rhythm, sounded incredibly similar. Unfortunately, their sharp cover of The Beatles' "Cry Baby Cry," felt noticeably absent at the gig, and despite his wacky appearance, resembling a young Bob Hoskins in his pajamas, lead singer Jason Beebout really did nothing to work the crowd, concentrating solely on lyric delivery, standing perfectly quiet while guitarist James Brogan tinkered with his amp periodically. At the risk of advocating inane, cliché banter, it would have been nice to at least have said "Hello" to the anxiously stirring crowd.

L.A. band Cool For August did their best to get things going, with their generic brand of alterna-pop. Sounding like a hybrid of Live and Pearl Jam-lite, much of their material was well delivered, but not memorable, with the exception of one of their final songs, "Spinning." Accompanied by an electric violin, the song bore a faint resemblance to R.E.M.'s "This One Goes Out to the One I Love," both musically and emotionally.

May 1998

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