Before Staind, from Springfield, Massachusetts, took the stage at the Reno Ballroom, they released a heaping helping of fog. Because this time of year, Renoites are only comfortable while not being able to see a foot in front of their face.
The nu-metal greats came out aggressively with two songs from their 2011 self-titled release and “Open Your Eyes” from 2001’s “Break The Cycle.” Songs that immediately got lead guitarist Mike Mushok bouncing off the walls.
I thought a majority of Staind’s music was about family, relationship and drug problems being tough, but something about lead singer Aaron Lewis’ “Fuck Newsom” sticker, his “Truth: the new hate speech” shirt, his “Fuck Joe Biden” hat, and a crowd highlighted by “Let’s Go Brandon” t-shirts, made me think there could be a uniting agenda I was unaware of.
Thankfully the propaganda never made it to the microphone. In fact, the band said absolutely nothing to the crowd. They played back-to-back tracks, from recent, softer hits to screaming throwbacks like “Raw” and “Crawl” from their second major release, “Dysfunction.”
Whether Lewis is releasing a gravely, guttural scream or singing the softest chorus, his hands were calmly in his pockets.
Mushok and Lewis have the exact opposite demeanor. Mushok is the guitar version of The Muppet’s Animal. Some people hear music; he feels it and rocks out to even the softest hit like it’s garage metal.
During another “Break The Cycle” single, “Fade,” Lewis casually smoked a cigarette as the song started, “I try to breathe…”
I was pretty crazy about Staind’s first three releases, and despite me growing out of my silver ball necklace from eighth grade, I still revisit the albums as well. So, it was wonderful to see the band give those songs the aggression and love they deserve. But it was odd to see a crowd of mostly seated 50-year-olds.
The first crowd interaction of the night came after Lewis and Mushok performed “Something to Remind You” without the band’s rhythm section. Lewis silently threw out his first guitar pick and the crowd went crazy.
Both the abrasive metal songs and the lighter radio hits feature wonderful hooks and guitar work from Mushok and pounding bass and vocal harmonies from bassist Johnny April.
“Right Here Waiting” is the kind of track that got the golden-agers out of their seats to slow dance while Mushok was still head-banging as hard as he does on stage with Jason Newsted’s band.
The second crowd interaction was just as subtle as the first. Eleven songs in, they played “Outside.” After letting the crowd finish singing the chorus on their own, Lewis gave a charming half smile at them.
During “So Far Away,” large screens on the sides of the stage displayed the song’s music video which features a montage of behind-the-scenes moments.
As a kid, band DVDs and VHS tapes were like currency. From Led Zeppelin to Weezer to NOFX to nu-metal greats like Korn and Staind, these videos grounded them into reality. They made me feel like they were dorks who liked to laugh just like me, or people with tough pasts just trying to be okay, like so many others.
I’ve seen a lot of damn shows and it’s rare a band can say absolutely nothing to the crowd and keep them so engaged.
After 14 songs, they returned to the stage after a short break filled with cheers from the audience.
”How’s everybody doing tonight?” Lewis said, knowing that’s usually what a frontman says after three songs.
“Well that’s good,” Lewis said.‘Cuz I’m doing good. How are you, Mike?”
“So thank you…” Lewis continued. “Thank you for sticking with us on this crazy ride we’ve been on. No pun intended, but it’s been a while.”
As they started their hit single, the sea of “Let’s Go Brandon” t-shirts were now illuminated with smartphones taking videos they will surely watch again.
During “Mudshovel,” the final song of the evening, Lewis left center stage and blessed the sides of the show with his demure presence.
“God bless you and your families,” Lewis said. “And God bless America.”
The man knows his audience.
Tony Contini is a photographer, videographer and writer focused on all things music. He’s had his finger on the pulse of Reno’s music scene for over a decade. He graduated from UNR with a degree in journalism and has since worked for newspapers, magazines, photo studios and as a freelance photographer and videographer. Aside from concert coverage, album reviews and music video production, his schedule is filled with weddings, portraiture and event coverage.