GIG REVIEW: The Return Of STAIND – Live: It’s Been A While (From Foxwoods)
If you ever needed more proof that hell can freeze over once in a while, Staind can provide it. In 2019, the multi-platinum metal sellers reunited for a comeback performance at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, making it a hometown affair. The evening recorded, preserved, and locked away in the band’s vault, perhaps never to be seen. Until now. As part of a global online series, ‘The Return of Staind’, the band is currently streaming ‘Live: It’s Been A While (from Foxwoods)’. A night that resurrects certain things that left us far too early, as well as others that should have stayed buried in the past.
Whether you were in the room on the night, or are watching through your computer screen for the first time, Staind milestones such as “For You”, “Right Here”, “So Far Away” and “Outside” still punch straight to the heart, leaving you with a lump in your throat. And the visual spectacle on the night isn’t half bad either, aside from some pitiful posturing. All enhanced by powerful stage lighting and screens, courtesy of Michael Cooper, as well as an impressive video wall projection from Andy Reuter. Meticulous direction and fluent editing capture everything from extravagant pyrotechnics to the subtle expression on members’ faces, courtesy of Ted Roach and co-director Lagan Sebert, both of whom contribute a great deal in bringing new life to the Staind spectacle.
Pity the performance didn’t stay true to that. During a pre-show interview, conducted by Sandra Sampayo, singer Aaron Lewis shares his reason for stepping away from the band was because he needed time away from the subject matter Staind tackled. Arguably one of the best, and most honest lyricists in the genre, this isn’t surprising. However, what does come as a surprise is during what should have been some of the evening’s most impactful moments. As guitarist Mike Mushok ushers in the opening notes of “Something To Remind You”, reminding us how incredibly powerful Staind can be even when only half the members are performing, Lewis reverses his snapback cap to reveal the Trump/Pence logo that feels about as relevant to the song as a Mars bar in a fruit bowl. The moment feeling forced, contrived, and hijacked. Similarly, during the band’s masterpiece, “It’s Been A While”, the moving, somber vocals are traded in part for a guttural retch, which changes the tone of the narrative and experience completely, and not in a good way. Finally, as the evening’s closer, “Mudshovel” rings out, remaining members gift the audience with picks and sticks while Lewis offers an insulting middle finger on each hand, walking off stage without a word. A four-star show with a two-star etiquette. One suspects the gesture was reciprocated by many in the audience.
Throughout the majority of the fifteen track setlist Aaron Lewis, Mike Mushok, Johnny April (bass) and Sal Giancarelli (drums) play with intense intimacy. If “Live: It’s Been A While (from Foxwoods)” captures moments of pure magic, it occasionally captures something else, something irritable, something that doesn’t appear to want to be there. Something that looks like it doesn’t care enough anymore. Which makes the idea of a reunion seem strange. Still, giving Staind the benefit of the doubt, and in truth, they’ve earned it over the years, in its best moments, “Live: It’s Been A While” reminds us that a Staind show can be both powerful and profound. It can feel as if you’re listening to someone articulate every private thought you’ve never shared. Which can make for an invigorating, if sometimes terrifying experience.