3 Doors Down catered to a sold-out Seneca Niagara Events Center last night, but I’d be willing to wager a small fortune that they could have just as easily wandered into any establishment on Third Street and assimilated without the faintest whiff of fanfare.
Despite selling more than 20 million albums since 2000, the quintet from Escatawpa, Miss. has always been one of those nameless, faceless bands whose songs are ubiquitous yet somehow the chances of someone off the street identifying any one of them in a police lineup remain as slim as the prospect of Amanda Knox ever getting the fair trial she deserves.
When singer Brad Arnold quipped early on about how their guitarist didn’t need his face to play the show, he unintentionally encapsulated the breadth of the band’s public anonymity. A statement uttered in jest became, to me, an indictment of the band’s overall aura of painstaking normalcy.
The fact that 3 Doors Down emerged during a dangerous time in which Creed and Nickelback had mainstream radio on a string didn’t do them any favors, because their material always had the same ordinary feel to it. The lyrics were cushy, the riffs were rudimentary, and, after a while, each arrangement began to blend right into the next with little separation.
While still worthy of a listen, I find it hard to believe that the absence of a formidable alternative didn’t play a role in their success early on.
None of that mattered much during their casino set, though, as the band’s self-effacing “Songs From the Basement” format revealed exactly the type of group they’ve always been. They should have switched out ‘basement’ with ‘barn,’ because all I needed was a minute of “Father’s Son” to conclude that 3 Doors Down is an assembly of twangy good ol’ boys who inadvertently struck gold with “Kryptonite,” and, in turn, were left scrambling for ways to retain their rock credibility.
The jig was up, and not even singer Brad Arnold’s aside about Metallica being one of the first concerts he ever attended was going to fool me into believing otherwise.
“Loser,” “Be Like That,” and “Duck and Run” all came off admirably in their own beer-swilling frat-rock fashion, but a mid-set take on Garth Brooks’s “The Dance” appeared to be much closer to the real thing.
Arnold’s everyman vocal quality fit the song well, as he allowed his spiritual connection to the material to guide him in his quest for appreciation. You wouldn’t know that he had ever written a number one song in his life given how folksy and uncontroversial he continues to be, but that’s what endeared him and his band to American audiences from the beginning. They just keep plugging away at their craft in a realm far removed from the TMZs of the world, so perhaps that aforementioned anonymity actually works to their advantage.
An impressive cover of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” segued into the set-closing encore of “Here Without You” and “When I’m Gone,” both of which translated seamlessly into the unplugged milieu and left the faithful wishing they had been lucky enough to score a seat on one of the two couches garnishing the stage.
What did the rest of us take from the evening’s events?
Well, we learned that 3 Doors Down is a fully serviceable rock band whose country roots are no longer in question. We learned that their music is the equivalent of old-fashioned American comfort food that retains its conventional flavor even in a stripped-down setting. And, most of all, we learned that said musical comfort food, like anything else, is best served in moderation.