While not a huge fan, Judge Bill Gibron enjoyed this sensational concert experience.
The sound of struggle against wholly human odds.
Staind's status as hard rock headliners seems to have peaked around 2002, when their third album, Break the Cycle, spawned the mega-hits "Outside" and "It's Been Awhile." In constant rotation on a still video playing MTV, it propelled the Springfield, Massachusetts' group to the frontlines of the nu-metal music, whether they liked it or not. Borrowing heavily from grunge but also employing techniques from such divergent genres as thrash and death, Staind's frontman—the amiable, if morose, Aaron Lewis—penned the kind of alienation anthems that spoke to a large portion of the world's disaffected youth. Since then, they have enjoyed a steady stream of commercial success, while the poignant lyrics of their signature songs continue to speak across the generations—and radio dials.
Still, Staind are more or less forgotten from a pop chart standpoint. With today's tendency toward tired Nicki Minaj dance beats, a group like this needs legitimacy to establish their well-deserved longevity. Luckily, they are a dynamite live act, as this excellent Blu-ray release from 2011 indicates. From the opening wallop of "Eyes Wide Open" to the quiet contemplation of Lewis' solo moment, "Country Boy," this concert is one fine feast for the ears…if not necessarily the eyes. Staind are not flashy. They don't set off pyrotechnics to accentuate each power chord. Instead, Lewis, backed by the excellent accompaniment of new drummer Sal Giancarelli, as well as mainstays Mike Mushok (guitars) and Johnny April (bass), stands front and center and pours his heart out into every line of every song. Sure, there are moments when he grabs the mic and begins moving—slowly—across the stage, but for the most part, this is a polished and professional outfit doing the best they can to sell their catalog (past and current) to the crowd.
And the fans love it. Every tune tracks across their aesthetic appreciation. Highlights include "Paper Wings," "Failing," "Crawl," and the closer, "Something to Remind You." In between, there is little audience interaction (Lewis will occasionally call for a sing-along) and even less of the expected rock arrogance. No, Staind comes from that specialized school that holds their fans in the highest regards, dedicated to little more than delivering the finest performance they can for the people who made them a mass appeal mainstream success. As guitars chug and Lewis shrieks, there's no affectation. Instead, the band blows the doors off the Mohegan Sun arena, showcasing a sound that has been carefully honed over years of touring. If there is one negative to Staind, it's said style. The band does come across as lost in a sludgy, lumbering approach that tends to render everything they do sonically similar. Once you get past the roar and listen to the lyrics, however, Lewis and his mates make a clear case for their creative chaos.
Technically, Staind: Live from Mohegan Sun is pretty good. The AVC-encoded 1.78:1/1080i transfer does a terrific job of capturing the vibe of this live show. The colors are clean and bright, and the details are so definite that you can see the individual hairs on Lewis' stubbled face. Sure, the direction tends toward the quick cut, and there are moments of strobe lighting which may cause some concern for viewers, but other than that, this is a good looking presentation. It also sounds great, thanks to the lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix. Yes, there is a LPCM 2.0 track as well, but stick with the true high-def experience. While Lewis' vocals are buried a bit, the overriding effect is immersive…and impressive. As for added content, we are treated to a 30-minute interview with the band that is very interesting, as well as a 10-minute featurette discussing Mike Mushok's guitar collection.
Yes, some are still stuck in Staind Version 1.0. For them, there will never be a better moment than when Aaron Lewis steps to the center of the stage, strums his six string instrument, and belies the fact that he's ugly, "ugly like you." It's a rare moment of honesty in a musical genre that usually bucks such self-deprecation. Staind, however, have made a career out of caring about the disaffected and depressed. Luckily, their music and the way they make it live argue for their sincerity.
Not Guilty. A terrific overview of a hardworking, heavy sounding band.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
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