I had the fortunate opportunity to catch Stapp perform at the neighboring Hard Rock Hotel just over a year ago as part of the hotel's 'Velvet Sessions' series. The raspy baritone frontman drew an almost cult-like attraction to the hotel, so I was curious to see what his draw would be like for tonight's show.
I had the very fortunate experience to be a part of tonight's soundcheck. If this option is available to you at your city: DO IT. The soundcheck took place about 3 hours before the concert took place. It was a very intimate-sized crowd of approximately 25 people, all of whom had a front row spot while Stapp and fellow bandmates tested venue acoustics via a mini 3 set song demonstration. Stapp cooly took to the stage as he took to the mic. After some initial bars, it was clear that he was ready to perform, at which point he paused and warmly acknowledged all of us in attendance. He was thoughtful enough to even call out a few fans he recognized from having attended other city soundchecks. He explained to us the purpose of what they were trying to accomplish, and how difficult it was for the sound techs because they were testing volume levels in an empty room essentially, and that all of those sound dynamics would change completely just prior to showtime when the venue would be packed. After 3 songs, he was feeling comfortable and the soundcheck was essentially over in about 15 minutes. He told us to wait for him to take photos.
We were led to the front of the venue by Stapp's guitarist, Yiannis Papadopoulos.Yiannis was very cordial and had the honors of talking to us about 'ChildFund', a Christian organization that the band has partnered with to offer up assistance to vulnerable children across 30 countries around the world. We watched a short video of the band doing their mission work, and it painted a very interesting side of the band that I believe not too many are familiar with. Yiannis was very passionate about helping this organization, and it was very genuine.
Stapp showed up just a few moments later, and we took photos 1 by 1 with the rocker.
So now for showtime. Dallas TX-based 'Messer' was the opening act. They were a good complement to what fans were expecting to hear from the former Creed frontman. Their synchronized guitar and drum was stabbing and driving... reminded me a little of Anthrax. They were very good.
It didn't take but maybe 30 minutes to break down the stage and setup for Stapp and crew. Beyond the drumset and mic stands, there was a platform centered at the front of the stage. The lights went black and Stapp's band came out with Stapp walking onstage last. They aggressively opened up with Creed's 'What If'. it was gritty, and exactly the sound that Stapp's loyal fanbase was waiting to hear. 'Slow Suicide' and 'World I Used to Know' -- 2 songs from Stapp's solo efforts were next.
The next few songs alternated between Creed's former playlist ('My Own Prison', 'Overcome') and Stapp's solo work ('Face of the Sun', 'Red Clouds', 'Name', 'Survivor'), before wrapping up the 15-song setlist with a flurry of Creed hits ('With Arms Wide Open', 'Higher', 'One Last Breath', 'My Sacrifice.') It was the perfect number of overall songs, which didn't make it feel like we were just dragging on into the night, or the opposite where it felt like we were short-changed.
Stapp is back. His voice sounded just like it did 20+ years ago, when his voice would blast on the radio and every girl in my class would seem to melt. If there was a king of striking photo-worthy rockstar poses, Stapp would own that crown. Physically, Stapp looked to be in excellent shape: donning a new shorter hairstyle, and a very lean physique, it seems that Stapp is taking his comeback very seriously. I was very entertained the entire evening as Stapp kept the energy and the flow of the concert going. Again, do yourself a favor: purchase the VIP meet and greet with the soundcheck, get some souvenirs, and be ready to rock with Stapp. He's back!!