Upon seeing that only a third of the Mullins Center was in use for the hard rock concert last Thursday, opening act Pop Evil’s vocalist Leigh Kakaty loudly proclaimed to the crowd that the concert would be a “private f***ing party.”
Kakaty’s words may have rung true for hardcore fans of the bands or the broader genre, but for everyone else, the show contained few fireworks. It was overall a night of mediocrity, a missed opportunity for the bands – especially headlining act 3 Doors Down – to show energy and originality beyond the studio recordings.
Pop Evil emerged on stage at 7 p.m. to a sparse crowd, as most concert-goers didn’t arrive until right before 3 Doors Down’s set two hours later. The Michigan quintet came out with guitars screaming and long dark hair flowing, playing “Broken & Betrayed” and “Daisy Chain” from their newest album “War Of Angels.”
The highlights of the set came when Pop Evil chose to slow things down. Kakaty’s soulful singing and acoustic guitar carried the song “100 in a 55.” Later, during “Monster You Made,” the chaos of the multiple guitars suddenly aligned to create the best sound heard from the band all night.
It was by no means a poor performance by Pop Evil, but there was nothing unique about them that set them apart from other aspiring hard rock bands. With just two albums under his belt, Pop Evil’s frontman thanked the audience for giving them a chance and promised a free CD for anyone who met them in the lobby after the show.
British Columbian rock group Theory of a Deadman took the stage with the “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” hit “Blame Canada” serving as an introductory song, and transitioned right into “Gentleman,” a song from their July “The Truth Is…” album.
The band made attempts throughout the night to keep the crowd engaged. For the song “Got It Made,” lead singer Tyler Connolly started a contest between the left and right sides of the arena, filming the competition on his flip cam. Later, they played “Santa Monica,” a song Connolly claimed to be among the most heavily requested by fans. The band even performed two verses from Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine,” which got some fans singing along.
Theory of a Deadman didn’t leave without compulsorily working into the set list their most popular songs, playing “Lowlife,” “Not Meant To Be” and “Bad Girlfriend.”
3 Doors Down began their set at 9:30 with “Time Of My Life,” the title track off their newest album. The passage of time was a theme for the band throughout the show; the head of the bass drum was decorated with the face of a clock, and the songs selected throughout the show seemed to highlight the various stages of life.
About halfway through the show, the band members left the stage as an interview with frontman Brad Arnold was played on the video screen. In the interview, Arnold recalled forming the band – a quintet originating out of Escatawpa, Miss. – when they were 15. As the interview ended, the band took the stage again to play “When You’re Young,” another song from their recent album.
Arnold introduced “Heaven” – another “Time Of My Life” song – by saying, “There’s not a person over 25 that can’t identify with this song. We’ve all been there.” And later, right in the middle of a verse during the hit single, “It’s Not My Time,” he spoke the words, “Listen to this.” He insisted that the audience pay close attention to the following lines and adhere to their vague wisdom: “My friend, this life we live/It’s not what we have, it’s what we believe in.”
While falling into the rock genre, it would be a stretch to lump 3 Doors Down into the exclusively “hard rock” category of the opening acts. Within their songs, they have some versatility; they can slow it down (“Here Without You”) or they can take on an edgier side (“Citizen/Soldier”). Like their albums, their set contained a decent mix of the two styles. But the songs also sounded virtually identical to the studio recordings, with no variations or unexpected twists in their delivery.
Still, Arnold seemed to be having genuine fun on stage. At the end of nearly every song, he broke into a big grin and said, “Thank you my friends. God bless you.” But while his on-stage vocals were at the same quality as the studio recordings, his passion seemed overall subdued, elevated at some points such as during the explosive back-to-back combination of “Citizen/Solider” and “Changes,” but never fully reaching the heights that Kakaty and Connolly had reached during their respective opening sets.
The remainder of the band showed even less energy. At first it appeared intentional – a statement by 3 Doors Down’s guitarists that they were comfortable enough with their own skills and personalities to not have to echo the on-stage antics of the opening act musicians. But nothing changed as the show went on. Chris Henderson’s guitar sounded great, but he was doing nothing more than standing in place and strumming the strings, occasionally giving a nod to a band mate or walking slowly to another place on the stage.
The set contained a good mix of old songs and new. The only major omission from the set list was “Be Like That,” with all the other early singles – “Loser,” “Duck and Run,” “Here Without You” and “Away From The Sun” making their necessary appearances.
The band left the stage after “It’s Not My Time,” prompting the crowd to begin its encore call. A clip of “Steamboat Willie” appeared on the video display, drawing laughs. But as the animation played on for an extended period of time, the increasingly confused crowd began to appear unsure as to what they were expected to do.
3 Doors Down eventually returned to play a three-song encore. Under green lights, the fans in the Mullins Center helped Arnold sing the hit single, “Kryptonite.” Next, the band played “Believer” with a brief Judas Priest cover mixed in.
Before the final song, “When I’m Gone,” a fan called out for “Freebird.” Arnold laughed, but would not take the fan up on the offer, saying, “We know some Freebird, but we ain’t playing it.”
Chris Shores can be reached at email@example.com.