Family Values tour rockers loud, empty


October 14, 2001



A sample exchange from the third edition of the generically hard-rocking Family Values tour, which pulled into a packed Allstate Arena on Friday night:

Band (during song's big, chant-along chorus): "I'm in pain! I'm in pain! I'm in pain! I'm in pain!"

Grimacing frontman (immediately after song's big, dramatic finale): "Is everybody having a good time tonight?"

Way back in 1993, Nirvana sang, "Teenage angst has paid off well." But what those grunge forefathers intended as a sarcastic criticism/guilty confession has been interpreted as a formula for success by the current legions of rap-rock poseurs and nu-metal wannabes.

Family Values is the Lollapalooza of this sorry scene. And despite the crossed fingers of countless critics and the prayers of rock fans with any trace of good taste, the genre shows no signs of abating.

This should come as no surprise. While the particular idioms may change, every era has its cookie-cutter, formulaic, loud but ultimately empty hard-rockers. Today's grunge balladeers Staind were yesterday's hair-metalers Poison; another era's Grand Funk Railroad is today's Linkin Park. Easily marketed, quickly digested, and ultimately execrable, this stuff has always been with us, and probably always will be.

Though the churning grind-core of second openers Static X was well-received, and headliners Stone Temple Pilots were treated as legendary classic-rockers instead of the second-generation grunge merchants that they seemed like back in the mid-'90s, the majority of the young, testosterone-crazed crowd had clearly paid its $50 per ticket to see the two middle acts.

Doing a bad imitation of Limp Bizkit doing a bad imitation of the Beastie Boys, the Southern California sextet Linkin Park steadfastly alternated singsong chants during the choruses with lame white-guy rapping in the verses for about 40 minutes. And not once did they show a glimmer of actual inspiration or genuine emotion.

In contrast, if Staind frontman Aaron Lewis emoted any more, he would have left a messy puddle on the stage.

Having perfected his puppy-dog pout and fake Eddie Vedder baritone, Lewis paced the stage, pouring his heart into his lame declarations of misery and woe while the three faceless, talentless musicians played incredibly weak power ballads like "Outside" and hundreds of fans held their lighters in the air without a trace of irony or shame.

In this company, Stone Temple Pilots seemed like musical geniuses.

Stressing their role as venerated elders, the four musicians stacked their set with early alternative radio hits such as "Flies in the Vaseline" and "Purple," as well as covers of "Dancing Days" and "Hey Man, Nice Shot."

STP singer Weiland seemed healthy and energetic throughout the band's set. He emerged in a priest's outfit, twirled about the stage in herky-jerk fashion and balanced precariously on one leg at the edge of the stage. But his voice was a little ragged, and he flubbed the lyrics to the Zeppelin cover, which was darn near unforgivable.

Still, as arena-rock goes, STP struck the right balance of tuneful and bombastic, something the other bands never approached.

"I'm not a [very nasty word] rapper," Weiland repeated several times, seemingly mocking the bands that had opened for him. Indeed, the other acts would do well to watch the headliner from the wings and take notes--though we'd be even better off if they'd all just quit and go back to their day jobs at Jiffy Lube.