Creed takes rock cliches to next level

February 15, 2002


You've gotta hand it to Creed: There isn't a band out there today--including its
obvious role models Pearl Jam and U2--that does arena bombast better.

The only question is, does rock really need arena bombast at all?

The 5 million people who bought the third album by these new millennial
mullet-rockers and those who filled the sold-out Allstate Arena on Wednesday
night shout a defiant "yes!" as they proudly wave their lighters in the air.

The rest of us who prefer our rock to convey real instead of hackneyed emotions,
to react spontaneously to the moment instead of being carefully scripted out, and to
offer at least some twists instead of nothing but cliched turns simply grit our teeth.

The difference between Creed and genuinely great rock bands (Pearl Jam and U2
among them) is the difference between having a time machine and being able to see
Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address live and in person, or watching the
animatronic dummy do it in the Hall of Presidents at Disney World.

Was there a single arena-rock cliche that Creed avoided? Hmmm, let's take stock.
There was fog, moody blue lighting, great gushing geysers of flame, shooting
fireworks, a hail of sparks and invocations to raise those lighters high.

There were towering Greek columns, a ramp for pretty-boy singer Scott Stapp to
run around, the occasional explosion and giant video screens to show Creed in all
its glory.

There were also several "How you doing, Chicago?"s, numerous declarations of
this audience being "the best in the world," and tearful references to Sept. 11
(properly setting up the melodramatic power ballad "One") and Stapp's son
(subject of the even more over-the-top power ballad "With Arms Wide Open").

Hey, wait, here's one: Stapp, the preachy spiritualist, avoided his patented, "nailed
to the cross" stage pose, a staple of previous shows! How could he? I want my
money back!

Creed's particular musical muscles are most obvious when the band is compared to
the many other journeymen poseurs tromping this tired ground, including the two
opening acts on this tour, the Virgos and Tantric. Both bands had very similar
sounds, but little parts of the puzzle were missing.

Stapp's version of Eddie Vedder doing Jim Morrison was just a bit more pliable
and soared just a tad higher during those anthemic choruses.

Drummer Scott Phillips hit just a little harder and with a more pronounced
backbeat, the better to rock the cheap seats. Most of all, rock engine Mark
Tremonti was just a hair more clever on guitar when combining R.E.M./U2 jangle
and generic hard-rock/ heavy-metal riffs and licks.

It all added up to create a big, booming, stand-on-your-toes simulacrum of real
rock energy and excitement. The key missing factor just happened to be the one
that the band sang about and yearned for most: soul.