Scott Stapp, Rockett Queen

Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro

Monday, Jan. 18, 2016

“Man, I have a weird idea. Do you want to go see Scott Stapp and write about it?”

My first thought, upon receiving that message, was, “Is there anyone less qualified than myself to act as pretend music critic, even with the bar for engagement set at Scott Stapp level?”

My second thought: “How many consecutive nights have I spent playing Fallout 4?” So I said yes, yes to adventure—and to Carrboro for a night of fun and fellowship with proto-Florida Man Scott Stapp.

Here’s a brief recap for those of you who, like me, weren’t aware of the former Creed frontman’s existence since the world’s biggest Christian rock band (I mean, probably … maybe?) called it quits in 2004 … or, debatably, 2012: two solo records, a so-bad-it’s-beautiful anthem for the Florida Marlins titled “Marlins Will Soar,” a cover of CCR’s “Fortunate Son” with Carlos Santana that will erase any goodwill you built up while listening to the Marlins tune, a very public breakdown in late 2014 in which Stapp claimed that his family were ISIS agents and he had to assassinate the president.

Since, though, Stapp has seemingly turned things around, seeking treatment for addiction and bipolar disorder and reconnecting with his family. He’s also a pretty active philanthropist, and I don’t want to take hacky shots at someone’s mental illness, so I’ll say, for now, good on him.

“That’s right, ladies, that’s the VIP package … pun intended!”

This brings us to the Cradle. I arrived halfway through opener Rockett Queen’s (“That’s Rockett Queen with two T’s”) set. Goddamn was this band awful. I’m not sure you can parody something as inherently ridiculous as hair metal, but these Texans gave it their best. I should know better than to listen to a guy in a kilt and leather jacket with what I’ll call backbangs. (Here, look at a grey crowned crane and you’ll see what I mean). They seemed to take fashion cues from professional wrestler Raven, and their set was replete with overabundant calls of “This one’s for the ladies!” and something about flying flags and rebel yells.

After a few forgettable originals and a traumatizing cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” (I could feel Wayne and Garth dying in my soul), Rockett Queen leftt the sttage around 8:40pm. Whew.

“Let’s take it back to 1997, y’all.”

I retreated to the bar to reevaluate my life choices and commiserate with a Cradle employee who was gently thudding his head against the bartop. Scanning the roughly half-capacity Monday night crowd, I saw mostly what you’d expect. There were ill-fitting leather pants, ill-fitting sleeveless shirts and exactly four people who felt comfortable paying the $24 ticket price to have a self-aware night of ironic fun. The seated section was full of middle-aged, white-collar types with commemorative VIP laminates, eyes aglow after their tour, I presume, of Stapp’s bus.

After a brief interlude, the lights dimmed, and what I’m guessing is Scott Stapp’s interpretation of world music boomed through the PA. The band (The Scott Stapp Band?) took the stage to all the fanfare the crowd could muster. I was too mesmerized by the bassist’s ever-so-soulful soul patch to cheer. The man of the hour took his place last, sporting a greased up semi-mullet that could only look cool in Donald Trump’s America. Stapp didn’t look all that different from the guy I remember on MTV when I was in middle school—buff super-bro with an air of self-importance and a dash of a Messiah complex.

He and his band proceeded through what sounded like a mix of old and new, covering both Stapp’s solo work and Creed’s hits, delivered competently if not with the expected polish. Stapp strutted across the stage, waving his hands like Joel Osteen leading a Doors tribute band. The guitarist had the curious habit of yelling “Come on!” over his own solos. Other than that, the band did OK, I guess, though they seemed to lack the confidence of Stapp’s presence.

After performing the title track from his new album, Proof of Life, Stapp engaged the crowd in some sermonly back-and-forth: “What’s the purpose of your life? Is it your job? Your family? I guess it’s love, man.” Heavy. Another chorus of “I do not have to justify the way I live my life” got the crowd particularly excited, reminding me of evangelical Christians’ perennial war on the war on Christmas. There was a throaty chant of “WHAT IF, WHAT IF, WHAT IF, WHAT IF,” the chorus to a song probably called “What If.” He also rapped at one point; Scott Stapp rapping is better than Fallout 4.

An hour and a half later, everyone shuffled out the back of the venue, seemingly satisfied. There was nothing overtly silly about the performance (other than the rapping, which was, to be fair, brief). This wasn’t a self-aggrandizing Kid Rock or [insert bro country group here] show. Stapp seemed mostly reflective and apologetic about his past, and he seemed happy to be onstage—good enough for me.

I would like to know, however, how the fuck a marlin is supposed to soar.