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Creed Concert Reviewed by an ‘Avowed Non-Fan’

Scott Legato, Getty Images

Who goes to a Creed concert in 2012?

An avowed non-fan of that ’90s Florida post-grunge band, I still wanted to go — with a hefty dose of irony, my ego hastens to add — to see what sort of people would actually turn up for Scott Stapp and co.’s reunion tour at Beacon Theatre on Thursday night, 15 years after the band first peaked.

Creed has sold a staggering 40 million albums in their career, and while you may love to hate them for their preachy songs and heavy borrowing from Pearl Jam‘s everything, they’re one of the most commercially successful rock bands of all time. After disbanding in 2004 due to tensions between Stapp and his band, they put out another album in 2009, but now the original Creed is reuniting for a tour. They’ll play their first album My Own Prison one night, and then Human Clay the next, before moving on to a new town. They’re also working on a new record.

To answer my question, the average age at the Beacon Theatre Thursday night was … mature, save for the brunette woman next to us in a glittery cardigan and a feathered black fascinator that could’ve been pilfered from Kate Middleton’s closet. There were baby boomer couples sporting wedding rings; some groups of tattooed youngsters that snooty Manhattanites might describe as “B&T”; a few pairs of 40-something women who had tilted back a few too many chardonnays. All in all, the crowd kept pretty tame; a faint wisp of pot smoke behind us was quickly nixed by a hovering security guard.

Watching Creed perform in 2012 feels like you’re eyeing a relic from the past in a museum, and that’s because you pretty much are. Guitarist Mark Tremonti’s overwrought arrangements smack of ’90s alternative excess, reminding that neo-grunge then was about commercial radio appeal and album sales in a way that the pioneering grunge bands like Nirvana at least pretended they couldn’t care less about. During songs like “One,” the crowd lifted their arms in the air like an evangelical Christian youth group; Creed’s audience seems to still be largely populated with religious fans who were always drawn to its gospel-y lyrical undertones.

And then there’s Stapp, now 38, who has always been sort of a caricature of a rock star, like he knows what a frontman is supposed to do but isn’t really sure he’s the guy who should be doing it. He lumbered across the stage dramatically during his set on Thursday, crouching down to growl into the mike and pausing during every song to shake what seemed like the hand of every fan in the venue’s front rows. With that sheath of long hair, he can still master the constipated look of anguish and flung-out arms that made us all roll our eyes a decade ago. But despite all those theatrics, Stapp still manages something of a stage presence, an endearing awkwardness that almost has you rooting for him. At the end of each song, he’d pump his fist and turn back to his bandmates, as if to be like, “Hey guys, we remembered that one!”
Clad in a black button-down and jeans, the singer has also put on a few pounds since his heyday, and by the third song he was dripping with sweat as if the ghost of the ’90s had turned to ectoplasm and was oozing out of his pores.

The religious overtones that always churned steadily in the backdrop of Creed’s music were all on display last night, and they too seemed particularly anachronistic. In a post-9/11 society, Stapp’s lyrics like “Only in America we kill the unborn to make ends meet” come off like quaint relics of another, Bush-ier time. In the 15 years since Creed’s last popularity surge, Stapp has been involved in some very public shenanigans, including substance abuse, an arrest for domestic violence and an alleged sex tape he filmed with Kid Rock and some groupies that probably went down in history as the only sex tape people would pay not to watch. I couldn’t help but wonder how he relates to his churchier lyrics today. But if he’s jettisoned his faith, it wasn’t evident, as he gestured repeatedly to the heavens on “One” and sang would-be hymns like “My Sacrifice” sans irony.

For a band that once got sued by their own fans for sucking so profusely, Creed didn’t sound half bad musically, considering they’re now more than a decade past their prime. Stapp’s and the audience’s earnestness even started chipping away at my own hard veneer, and by the end, I felt like that smug douchebag acting too cool for the party while everyone around me had a hootenanny of a time.

Jessica Misener is the Style News editor for The Huffington Post. Read more of her stories here.

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