“Don’t cry victim to me/Everything we are and used to be/Is buried and gone/Now it’s my turn to speak.” – Opening line from Creed’s 2009 single “Overcome.”
When ex-Creed frontman Scott Stapp was given a chance to speak in Niagara Falls on Friday night, his message resonated extremely loud and incredibly clear in a way that few saw coming. He dared the audience to join him out on the ledge for an unmitigated view of the devil’s playground below and, in doing so, made rehashing the tale of how he went from headlining world-class arenas to getting up-close-and-personal with 440 people in the so-called “Honeymoon Capital of the World” a pointless endeavor.
We already knew about the arrests, the addictions, and the multiple crises of faith Stapp has endured throughout his time in the limelight. What we didn’t know was how Stapp would resurrect himself both personally and musically en route to becoming a symbol of strength for anyone staring at a similar fate in the mirror.
He has overcome, and I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more humble and deserving human being in modern rock who is more worthy of such a pulsating late-career renaissance.
Touring in support of his sophomore solo release, “Proof of Life,” Stapp has constructed his set around the concept of how someone gets caught up in the destructive excesses of stardom only to discover that something better is awaiting them at the end of the tunnel. Think of it as the Seven Deadly Sins set to melodic, angst-ridden hard rock and you’ll get the picture of what he’s going for.
“Slow Suicide” and “Who I Am” put The Bear’s Den’s acoustics to the test right from the start as Stapp’s band plowed through each at potent volume, but it was the next stretch of songs that allowed everyone to hit their stride.
Hearing “What If,” “My Own Prison,” and “Faceless Man” played within the narrative context of his new material was riveting, because the trio of Creed staples added yet another layer to the mix. He’s not some naïve young upstart tackling issues far beyond the breadth of his life experience. He’s a visceral performer whose lyrics carry a life’s worth of literal blood, sweat, and tears on their shoulders, which ultimately makes them stand up to scrutiny from all angles.
“Faceless Man” was knocked out of the park so soundly that I began to experience chills about halfway through, meaning that Stapp’s energy had tapped into a part of me that only a handful of artists have ever activated.
Given the fact that I hadn’t traveled south of the border recently, I’m certain it wasn’t a malarial infection. The collective effort was just that powerful.
The rest of the audience had their fever moment during the one-two punch of “With Arms Wide Open” and “Higher,” clearly the two most well-known songs Creed ever laid down. It was as if they all decided to have a spiritual awakening at the same moment, because the army of air-guitarists and the biblical flood of tears streaming down many faces converged to create a scene I won’t soon forget.
But that’s how it’s always been with Creed. They amassed a legion of followers strong enough to propel 1999’s “Human Clay” to 20 million sales worldwide partly based on Stapp’s innate ability to connect with people on a sincere level. Listeners appreciate “Proof of Life,” because the album plays like his own collection of horcruxes in the sense that every song contains a shard of his fragmented soul.
“Hit Me More” recounts the night in which he narrowly escaped death in Miami Beach, “Jesus Was a Rock Star” encompasses his theological complexity, and the title track takes every negative thing he’s ever said or done and refurnishes them into a definitive statement of accountability.
Scott Stapp is a survivor for whom every second is a gift from God and, unlike in past years, he doesn’t intend on wasting any more of them. As his performance at Seneca Niagara Casino proved, he has no shortage of things worth living for.