REUNITED CREED REAFFIRMS STATUS

TOM KEYSER STAFF WRITER
Section: Preview,  Page: PV5

Date: Thursday, August 13, 2009

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- By the time Scott Stapp ripped off his shirt, it was all over, literally, but the shouting. It was the last song, and he sang: "Hello my friend, we meet again/It's been a while, where should we begin ... Feels like forever."


Thus ended Creed's concert Tuesday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center -- Stapp, shirtless, drenched in sweat, singing in a clear, powerful voice, and his fans, standing, their arms raised and swaying from side to side. If anyone doubted that Stapp and his mates would return at anything less than full force after a seven-year hiatus, then that foolish notion was proved false about a dozen songs earlier.


On this, the band's fourth concert of its first tour since 2002, Creed reminded the 7,000 in attendance that it was, before disintegrating in 2004, one of the leading rock bands in the world. It sold close to 35 million albums and its first album alone produced four hit singles.


But in the wake of Stapp's erratic, self-destructive behavior, the band split up. His three partners formed Alter Bridge, leaving Stapp to deal with his drinking, drug and behavior problems.


From what he's said in interviews, and most significantly, from his performance Tuesday, he apparently did. He led the band through 16 songs, including a three-song set for an encore, and interacted with the audience and the band. He draped an arm around guitarist Mark Tremonti's shoulder several times and once even pushed him playfully.


Stapp strutted up to the other band members, too -- bassist Brian Marshall, drummer Scott "Flip" Phillips and touring guitarist Eric Friedman -- and seemed to enjoy the interplay.


He rocked his body as they played ferociously, and they in turn smiled and nodded at him.


But most of all, Stapp played to the crowd, slapping hands, shouting up to the balcony, continually saying thanks for the thunderous applause.


Gone is the long hair. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported after the tour's first show five days earlier: "Now rather than the 'Braveheart' look, he's looking more like the buzzcut Mel Gibson."


But still there is the commanding presence -- the pained expressions as he sings just short of a scream, the arms raised toward the heavens and the hand pounding his chest. He led the band from the opening "Ode" through "Bullets," "My Own Prison," "Torn," "Say I," "Never Die," "What If," "Unforgiven," "What's This Life For," "Overcome" (from the forthcoming album "Full Circle"), "Faceless Man," "With Arms Wide Open" and "Higher."


After two minutes offstage, Creed returned for an encore of "One," "One Last Breath" and the closing "My Sacrifice."


And to reinforce that Creed not only can still sing and play but also put on a terrific show, the lights, pyrotechnics and video images brought arena rock to the open-air SPAC.


"What a beautiful night for a rock show, man," Stapp said.


And it was.


The Latham band Lunic opened with an entertaining six-song set that capably represented the Capital Region, and then Like A Storm, a raging, exciting and talented band from New Zealand, did its energetic best to energize the crowd. Fronted by the three Brooks brothers -- Chris, Matt and Kent -- Like A Storm isn't subtle, but it's engaging.


Tom Keyser can be reached at 454-5448 or by e-mail at tkeyser@timesunion.com.


BOX:


Concert review


CREED


When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday


Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs


Length: Creed, 90 minutes; Like A Storm, 30 minutes; Lunic, 20 minutes


Highlights: "Say I," With Arms Wide Open," "One Last Breath."


Crowd: 7,000 true believers





BOX:


New CDS to return


The New CDs column will resume in the weeks to come.