Last Night: Aaron Lewis at Verizon Wireless Theater
It's unusual for the cavernous Verizon Wireless Theater to take on the feel of an intimate venue. When Aaron Lewis took the stage Thursday night for a solo acoustic set, though, the concert hall's confines seemed to shrink down to the size of a welcoming roadhouse rather than a repurposed convention center.
Photos by Marco Torres
Lewis may have risen to fame fronting the metal act Staind, but his solo show is bombast-free. Marshall stacks and cymbal racks were nowhere to be found. Instead, the singer sat on a stool near the edge of the stage, flanked only by a selection of open guitar cases.
It was a set-up seemingly better suited to the stage nook at a local dive than a Live Nation theater. The only rock-star trapping Lewis allowed himself was the endless stream of cigarettes that he smoked between songs.
"What can I say," the singer chuckled as he lit up another. "It's a stage prop."
The lack of scenery only served to draw the audience in as Lewis opened with a cut from his forthcoming 2012 full-length. The crowd was a mix of Anglo and Hispanic thirtysomethings, mostly couples, sipping on tallboys and whooping it up as the tattooed troubadour worked out his country bonafides in front of honest-to-God Texans.
It's only natural to be skeptical of a metal vocalist still trying to break in his first pair of cowboy boots, but Thursday's crowd was happy to give Lewis the benefit of the doubt.
Sideman Ben Kitterman accompanied the singer on the pedal steel and Dobro, adding sonic depth and a Nashville shimmer to Lewis' spare acoustic strumming. On songs like "Red, White & Blue" and "Country Boy," though, Lewis strayed a bit too far into country cliché. Lyrics like "I love my country, I love my guns" sounded more like a rock-star parody of a blue-collar shitkicker than the real deal.
On more personal tunes, though, his stabs at country worked. Songs like "Massachusetts" and "The Story Never Ends" extolled the joys of coming off the road to home, family and belonging that have helped buoy the genre for generations. These were the themes that resonated most deeply with the crowd, silencing the whooping and hollering as the womenfolk cuddled their sweeties.
"Aint it good to know that no matter where you go, this town has got your back when you're gone," Lewis sang.
For the most part, it was a loose, informal set punctuated by laughter and small talk. Well removed from his band's angsty image, the singer kept things light, fun and even a bit silly with an acoustic version of Cindy Lauper's "Time After Time." The audience ate it up.
Lewis encouraged interaction from the crowd by acknowledging and responding to the song requests and encouragement shouted his way. He redirected one request from ladies in the audience that he remove his shirt to his portly sideman instead.
One of the biggest whoops of the night came when up when some weekday wage-earner out in the dark screamed, "How 'bout those Texans?!"