MCI Center, Washington D.C.
February 8, 2002
"Your Roots Are Showing"
I had been anticipating the Creed performance at Washington's MCI Center since Christmas of 2001. It was almost not to be. When I heard guitarist Marc Tremonti's mother had died of a brain tumor and that the show was postponed until March, I was devastated. But when all of the radio stations continued to give tickets away to the February 8th show, I was relieved to find it was on. I wondered if Tremonti's loss would spark Creed's spirituality or act as a drag on their creativity.
The MCI Center was almost filled to capacity when Creed stepped onto the stage following Tantric, a mediocre band that seemed almost surprised to find itself at such a large venue. The set list kicked off with "Bullets," the hard-driving opener of the latest CD, Weathered, which was just certified as a five-million seller before the show opened. Scott Stapp was in good voice and seemed to be animated as he moved through the set, which was dominated by cuts from the Weathered CD. Creed also reached back numerous times to their first CD, My Own Prison, presumably because their last tour was designed to promote their successful second CD Human Clay. The second CD has also been certified as a ten-million seller, a testimony to Creed's meteoric rise to broad-based stardom after emerging from behind the esoteric "alternative" label. The band's shift towards the artistic center has not been without controversy both inside Creed's following and among critics.
Guitarist Mark Tremonti seemed to share Stapp's enthusiasm as he tore into now familiar licks on songs like "Stand Here With Me" and "Higher." If he was still carrying the burden of his mother's loss at the time of the show, he left the weight of it backstage. Both he and Stapp exuded an innocent sexuality as they rocked the audience in the front of the general admission floor. Their emotions seemed to be worn on their sleeves as Stapp introduced a number of songs with personal anecdotes of thoughtful introspection and private inventories on the meaning of their lives and professional contributions to music.
I was seated in one of the most distant seats from the stage, which is not very advantageous if I wanted to see the sweat dripping off off Stapp's face. But it did allow me to gain the unique perspective of viewing the entire audience in its reaction to this upgraded Creed, its presentation of itself, and its message to the public. I have been attending rock concerts for over 25 years and never have I witnessed a spiritual merger like the one I saw at the MCI Center that night. To put it simply, Creed rocked! The band and the audience seemed to be one in the music. I knew Creed fans maintained a special bond with the group, but I was able to see it in action when all of the audience members rose to their seats and joined Stapp in almost every song. Grown men in baseball caps were dancing in the aisles, and if they had women with them, the women were usually dancing as well.
For myself, Creed's appeal comes from the normal average-ness of these three guys who happened to touch the soul of American youth and raise them up from self-absorption into an agnostic spirituality. The group has its origins in a "VH1 Behind The Music" type of rise from someone's basement to playing sold out shows in a coliseum in our nation's capital. In fact, Stapp reached out to his audience by thanking them for their support through Creed's short career. He assured his listeners that even though he and the others have been "successful" in reaching rock star status, he and the band members "still feel what you feel." The lyrics of Weathered show that Creed's members are still human and subject to human frailties. In fact, I was crushed when I learned Stapp was divorced. There is nothing intrinsically wrong in such a status, but I was disappointed to know he succumbed to the pressures of Hollywood-style relationships. His song "With Arms Wide Open" even became the basis for a charitable foundation concerned with improving the parent-child relationship (visit http://www.witharmswideopen.org/ to learn more). But knowing he was now among the masses of ex-married people did not cheapen the concert experience; in fact, it enhanced it. The trials of these guys added to the humanity of people who have become larger than life.
A major criticism of Creed's direction, and possibly of this show, is that Creed has become too "preachy." Scott Stapp's fundamentalist background does seem to permeate his lyrics, and for some, his themes translate into a religiosity that some media types and non-religious fans reject. In the light of September 11, it may be time for Stapp's detractor to get a spiritual life. Throughout the show, Stapp appealed to the audience's sense of oneness before a number of songs. The audience seemed to respond positively when the band led them in a chorus of "one" from the My Own Prison CD.
Creed now has the capital to put on a show complete with synchronized pyrotechnics and large-screen camera angles. For us little guys in the back row, having those features was a nice addition, but they did not define the show. Instead, it was the band-to-audience connection that made the love between them become palpable. With the music as their medium, Creed conveyed its message of personal salvation and social unity.