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Creed gets their message through

Published on 09-04-2000
Published at Saratoga Times Union

It didn't just rain, it poured, driving on Route 9 at 5 mph with the wipers-on-double-speed downpour. It went from humid to almost cold in an hour, as if nature was just in a bad mood.

But that didn't dampen the mood at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Bare-chested boys slid down the grass on their bellies as their fellow lawn-dwellers cheered them on -- like it was a new sporting event. (Luckily, bellies weren't on the SFX banned list).

Creed vocalist Scott Stapp looked at the vast crowd that spilled up the lawn and beyond and said, "I can always tell a New York crowd, I can feel the energy.'' The Tallahassee group has been together since 1995, but in this last year their career has heated up, bringing them to headliner status, and the capacity crowd at SPAC surely punctuated that.

Though thought of as a Christian band for their reflective and thoughtful style, they steadfastly avoid that label, finding it limiting. But with their lyrics of soul-searching and self-discovery, there's no denying the spiritual overtones that permeate their material.

In front of a blood-red backdrop, Creed took to the stage as a shower of flames and fireworks engulfed the stage. Creed's huge wall of sound had a mesmerizing effect almost immediately. Singer Stapp slowly slithered around the stage, while Mark Tremonti's muscular guitar and open chord clusters filled in the sonic nooks and crannies, from the dreamy "Torn,'' the beguiling "Beautiful,'' bashing "Say I'' to the eerie "Never Die.''

Though they shun the spiritual tag, Creed sure acted like messengers. Playing with a shamanistic fervor, their thoughtful themes were subtle but effective, giving them a sure center of gravity. "With Arms Wide Open,'' "Higher'' and "What's This Life For'' held a huge, uplifting sound -- you just had the feeling you were watching something important. Their explosive, stunning set was both grand and majestic, sanctifying and redeeming the blissed-out crowd, raising their intensity higher and higher with each tune until they nearly levitated. Creed gave a truly compelling concert that will certainly be considered one of the year's best.

Days of the New's intriguing sound set a pounding rhythm section against two acoustic guitars. Singer Travis Meek has an amazing rock voice, from low power tones ala Jim Morrison, to a blistering scream (ala Jim Morrison). New single "Enemy'' found the scruffy, diminutive Meeks just roaring, though it didn't seem to really connect with the crowd.

American Pearl's hot-wired Hollywood sound got the blood pumping. The highly illustrated quartet (they used to own a Sunset Boulevard tattoo parlor) wore their guitars slung low as they dug into raw guitars tempered by melodic vocal lines and harmonies.

From the riff heavy "Automatic'' to the almost thoughtful "Bleed'' and "If We Were Kings,'' singer Kevin Roentgen worked the stage hard as they proved good old la-la Los Angeles rock and roll never goes out of fashion.

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