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BML_Photography_17304_RT_Aaron Lewis_Hou

Staind Frontman Aaron Lewis Goes Country at HOB

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November 22nd, 2019

Early aughts hitmakers Staind made their mark on popular culture and, like many bands from that era, took their place in the Jeopardy! category of "Mostly Forgotten Alternative Bands" sometime around 2012.  Frontman Aaron Lewis, an unlikely Country crossover artist, has done just that.  He appeared at House of Blues last night in support of his April release, State I'm In.

Lewis, always a strong performer gifted with a solid voice, has released three solo albums outside of his work with Staind, the band most well-known for huge hits "It's Been Awhile" and "So Far Away."  His genesis as a Country musician began around 2010, with a very well-received Country EP titled Town Line.

Is it possible for a heavily-tatted, metal-edged singer to make a conversion to twang?  Ask Darius Rucker; he's had no problem paying he bills since the Blowfish disbanded.  Playing to a sold-out crowd at Cleveland's House of Blues, Lewis took to the stage a few minutes late, amping the crowd up with both his arrival, and asking every man to remove their hat for a spoken rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance. He then offered fifteen tunes, a mish mash of his Country output and Staind's bigger hits.

Starting things off with "Country Boy," from 2011's initial EP, he let the crowd know that his roots may be northern (he hails from Vermont), but his attitude is all Hank Williams, Sr.

Seguing into a few other recent hits, Lewis offered "Sinner" and "Northern Redneck" to solidify his standing as an old school C&W acolyte.  The crowd, of course, loved it.  Dotted by a sea of MAGA hats, Lewis fit right in with his "Trump and Pence" ball cap, showing where his politics have taken him.  His voice was fantastic; both the timbre and his pitch were spot on throughout the evening.  The only thing, in my calculation, that stood out was his choice of shirtwear.  In a decidedly un-PC moment, he chose to wear a black shirt that said "LGBT." 

Which, of course, meant "Liberty, Guns, Beer, and Trump."

Now, the one thing that unites us all is music and our shared love of a melody.  What divides us, and sows discord, are messages like that.  I get it; you're pandering to those that buy your albums.  But to denigrate a marginalized group of people such as the LGBTQ community in that way dilutes your message.

And puts a damper on my enthusiasm.  I liked his show.  I love his voice.  But, sadly, at that moment I was out.  

Not to sound intolerant of other points of view, but at that sad revelation, I was no longer lost in the music.  I could only think of two of my family members who dealt with deeply frightening issues with coming out and how their pain has been made a butt for a poorly-presented statement. We get it: you're bad ass.  You're alternative.  You're a Constitutional Conservative.

But you don't have to be cruel to be that way.  Because, after all, you were born that way. Right?

Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley

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