Scott Stapp at Buffalo Iron Works (2016)

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Somewhere along the Yellow Brick Road to interconnectivity, we got lost.  We became so hypnotized by what our technological future might hold that we ended up voluntarily imprisoning ourselves even deeper within the twenty-first century consumer culture.  We became so concerned with what someone of loose affiliation was having for breakfast on a Tuesday that we forgot how to interact with one another on anything other than a perfunctory level.  Social media started out cloaked in the chimera of intimacy, but it has too often degenerated into a dais for attention whores eager to spout vitriol and disembowel The King’s English on a secondly basis.  The fact that Twitter continues to be an omnipresent stain on society’s conversational fabric and selfie sticks even exist should be enough to make one never wish to attend a public gathering again.

We accept all of the above, because the corporate masters behind the curtain have conditioned us to believe that living life through a screen is what all the cool kids are doing.  It’s as if the price of progress pales in comparison to the dopamine rush achieved every time someone gets a notification on their smart phone.  When Roger Waters sang about the human race having “no thoughts to think” and “no tears to cry” in 1992’s “Amused to Death,” he prophesied the unintended consequences of transitioning into a 24-hour information age where creativity and critical thinking are replaced by homogeneity and immediate gratification.

One of the benefits of being sandwiched between a few hundred people at Buffalo Iron Works while Scott Stapp is belting out a transcendent version of “Faceless Man” is that all those societal concerns are as blatant as Hillary Clinton’s affinity for Saul Alinsky’s politics.  Stapp is up there throwing himself into a song about getting in touch with nature and all anyone in the audience can do is decide which mobile device they should record the performance on.  Such a puzzling display of apathy toward an artist unafraid to shed his skin for the listener made me wonder how much longer people will have the capacity to engage in deep thought.

It’s disheartening, really, because this tour is arguably the most important of the ex-Creed howler’s career as he attempts to find himself and prove to the world why he’s still a musical force to be reckoned with.  While the initial batch of “Proof of Life” shows revolved around Stapp recounting his fall from grace via solo material of a confessional nature, these current shows have an implicit feeling of him auditioning to get his old job back.  He’s dusting off tracks such as “Torn,” “One,” and “My Sacrifice” with a modesty not usually associated with the man commonly referred to as “the most hated man in rock” once upon a time, and he wants Mark Tremonti, Scott Phillips, and Brian Marshall to notice that he’s finally on the right path.

Buffalo welcomed him “with arms wide open,” so to speak, which gave his 80-minute set the jumpstart necessary to build upon what he did so expertly at The Bear’s Den back in 2014.  The names and faces of his backing band have changed, but the fire with which he delivers the material burns as bright as ever.  A few bars of “My Own Prison” was all anyone needed to hear before realizing that he hasn’t lost a drop of what made Creed a band people wanted to see.  What he has lost, however, is the ego-driven messianic posturing that made him an easy target during his ugliest public encounters.  He’s clearly not the same person who engaged in a brawl with 311 in 2005 or threw a punch at a heckler in Florida back in 2001.

There’s something to be said for a platinum-selling artist getting to a place in life where they are humble enough to start from the bottom, and, regardless of how or why Stapp got to said place, it’s hard not to want to see him succeed.  His past is his past.  All he can do now is move forward and pray that enough people wish to follow.

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