I was feeling kinda sorry for Scott Stapp. Here's a guy who's a walking punch line, the comic-book version of rock stardom. He clearly has a substance abuse problem and is so desperate for attention that it seems he loosed a sex tape upon the world on the eve of his first national tour as a solo artist. His sense of self-awareness is the strange sort of anti-irony brought about by waking up in the morning with a gorgeous woman in your bed, an impressive number in your bankbook, platinum records on your wall and no clue as to why the world laughs at you.
Since I was feeling kinda sorry for Scott Stapp, I went to his concert at Hard Rock Live and when I looked around and noticed that the balcony was closed due to low ticket sales I felt really sorry for Scott Stapp. At that moment, I decided that I would give this pretentious douche bag another chance and, in the spirit of fairness, would judge his performance that night without letting the specter of Creed's awfulness hang over the night. (This, as you might imagine, was difficult, considering that many in the audience were wearing Creed T-shirts with a similar if less privileged sense of anti-irony.) This was a big deal. After all, Creed and especially Stapp have been the crystalline representation of everything so many people hate about what has become of radio rock. Their shrewdly calculating manipulation of spirituality was one thing; their hollow, by-the-numbers regurgitation of already recycled post-grunge clichés was another; but the fact that they all seemed like a bunch of prep school assholes with zero rock & roll backbone made it all too much.
But Stapp has turned from prep school asshole into full-blown, egomaniacal, punch-throwing, booze-swilling, pill-popping, booty-call-at-Denny's asshole. In other words, my kind of asshole. So, attitude adjusted, I watched the show.
Starting off powerfully (and early!) with some song from his new album (according to Jim Abbott who apparently takes notes it was called "Reach Out"), Stapp was actually impressive. He was energetic and emotional, the band was loud and the song though laughably predictable was the sort of rock number that makes you remember why rock & roll can be so affecting to so many people.
And then he opened his goddamn mouth to share some feelings with the crowd.
Hoping for a slurred and drunken diatribe on the lame turnout, I was sorely disappointed to hear him ramble on about how he really "needed" this and how it was good to be back in his hometown and blah blah blah blah. It was sweet and personal, and it was sickening and slightly weird.
The next song sounded the same as the first, as did the rest of the set, which soon became stunningly monochromatic. I didn't even get a Jesus Christ pose from the guy. (He came close, but then caught himself.) Instead, I got a nonstop barrage of self-help palaver issuing forth from Stapp's trap between every song. Shut up and have a drink already. We get it. But dude, we don't feel sorry for you anymore.
In my haste to give Stapp the benefit of the doubt, I had to duck out from an early show at The Peacock Room. Imagine the exact opposite of a Scott Stapp performance, and you might come up with a Turkish improvisational vocalist and an avant-garde double-bassist. The only thing the two shows had in common was that they were both in largely empty rooms. Vocalist Saadet Türköz (who turned out to be a Kazakh born in Turkey … who now lives in Switzerland; got it?) is possessed of a wide-ranging and thoroughly organic voice, capable of rough growls and mellifluous beauty, often in the same moment. Her unfamiliar vocabulary and expressive flourishes were initially reminiscent of someone like Sainkho Namtchylak, but after a couple of minutes, she proved to be a thoroughly unique talent.
Lisle Ellis, whose rigged-up bass and battery of digital machinations made his approach the opposite of "organic," was an unlikely collaborator. At first, it seemed that it was difficult for the two to establish the sort of communication necessary for effective improvisation, but eventually it clicked. (Türköz has performed with Elliott Sharp, so she's not unfamiliar with boys and their toys.) It's unfortunate that only a dozen or so people were there, and embarassing that a couple of them saw fit to talk loudly during the show. There was another performance the following night at Full Sail that added Larry Ochs on saxophone and Don Robinson on percussion, and though I wasn't able to make it, I'm sure it was a firstname.lastname@example.org
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