It was barely a day into Spring, but the Texas heat belied the calendar as fans assembled along the rail in preparation for the familiar choruses that the singer-songwriter has been leading since the mid-90s. With a repertoire of songs like “My Own Prison,” “One Last Breath,” Higher” and “My Sacrifice,” amidst only a starter list of his chart toppers with Creed, Stapp has always made his words, statements of faith and hope, empowering faithful listeners to push through the darkness and find hope on the other side. This tour, supporting the release of his second solo album, Proof of Life, last November, is different, not only because he’s singing to new audiences, since the album giving him his first #1 on the Billboard Christian charts and several other Christian rating sites, with “Slow Suicide,” but also because the artist is making it crystal clear that this journey of faith is his own, and he is ready to share the road and the ride with everyone. Like the season, it is a new beginning.
Opening acts, Exist Elsewhere, and local band, The Sky Divided, made perfect primers for Stapp, with themes of bigger questions beyond the base groove and guitar solos. As the pitch black was broken by the flashes of light and the pulsating force of energy that Stapp embodied throughout the night, voices rose to “Slow Suicide,” making it more than apparent that this would be a night to celebrate the new, not just revel in greatest hits. Stapp is supported through this jaunt with the laudable talents of Chad Szeliga on drums (Breaking Benjamin, Black Label Society), Andy Waldeck, a seasoned part of the Daughtry road crew in addition to his songwriting and producing, guitarist Andy Wood, and Travis Comer, who proves versatile on more than one instrument. The set list has a designed intent, moving from accountability to acceptance of faith, words of salvation pinned by a sonic bedrock. When it came to “New Day Coming,” and its affirmation of “I’ll get back up for good this time,” the sold-out audience sold pretense out to emotion, with raised hands and tearful eyes. Like Stapp, many understood the journey of rising from the floor to face the person in the mirror, a tough climb, and the most difficult distance of all, as the artist described, of moving faith from head to heart, 12 inches, but a lifetime to learn.
Creed favorites were sandwiched in between the mile marker songs of Stapp’s journey, and treats like “Hit Me More” sounded as strong onstage as they did on disc, and displayed vocal range from the band, too. “Jesus Was a Rockstar” was a greater moment of revival than a dozen preachers combined could muster on Sunday morning, Stapp pounding out the southern groove infused with Cherokee drumbeat rhythms through his whole body while he sang out “Father, I have sinned a million sins, Save me from this world you put me in, Come on, bring Jesus back again” with the cry of an altar call. The band added an extra flourish as an exclamation point.
Stapp sings as a man renewed, and his energy at 40 is far beyond what he ever displayed in his mid-20s with arguably the biggest rock band in the world. The 18-song show ended in vows of redemption in verse. “Dying to Live,” reverberated with its plea to “write the song the world forever sings.” All he had to do was look out to the audience to know that request had already been granted. “Proof of Life” closed the night, with a delicate acoustic introduction by Comer, and Stapp’s captivating meshing of melody to movement, dancing around his mic stand, in every round of refrains, leaving no doubt that he had given his all and more in the promise “You’re the proof of life.” Contrary to the popular concept that becoming a star requires perfect pitch and elaborate staging, Scott Stapp proves that a single performer, with a singular gift, and unquenchable passion, stirs an undying sensation within that no mechanics can capture. It flows from the divine. A song stirs more deeply than stained glass windows.