As grey skies descended on northern London on Monday 10th October, a line of solemnity clung to a shadowy side alley of the HMV Forum in anticipation of Staind’s headline tour in support of their self-titled seventh effort. The veterans of the bygone grunge era arrived to a crowd of loyal lackeys dressed in their best Staind attire, with support from unknown Swede rockers April Divine, who accepted their anonymity with a commendable attitude
The four-piece Swedish support act arrived onstage to both amplification problems and jeers from a jovial yet impatient audience. Once the initial setbacks were corrected, the quartet plunged straight into their first track, clearly unphased by the technical issues that plagued their first impression. They sped through a refreshingly diverse yet slightly schizophrenic setlist, ranging from Staind-esque ballads to detuned driven numbers with a confidence rarely found in newcomers to the industry. Their vocalist appeared somewhat bewildered, but the rest of the group comfortably darted around the stage with an abundance of juvenility. Although the subdued frontman attempted to engage with the hoard of concert-goers at times, he did so with a slight tremble and a pained expression
The guitarist on the other hand, adorned with a Slash headpiece and a blonde beard of wisdom, drove through impressive riffs with ease. What’s more, he did so with an amusing array of facial expressions and what seemed like a solo game of musical statues, freezing comically in sections where his services were not needed. The awkward juxtaposition of the serious singer and the remaining trio was a tremendous shame, but the complete quartet worked as a coherent musical unit and were well-received overall.
Staind somberly walk onto the stage appearing dejected, with a deliberate disregard for the hundreds of fans who had packed out the venue. Frontman Aaron Lewis stumbles up to the microphone looking fatigued and miserable, but belts out the opening ‘Spleen’ with as much guttural power as he can muster. He continues to meander lazily around the stage and gazes emptily at a sea of faces chanting his own lyrical diary entries. The enigmatic frontman plays his depressed persona well and while it may be perceived as arrogant, it complements the series of dirges Staind perform during their 16-song setlist. While the set contained several tracks from their new album, it explored many aspects of the quartet’s multi-faceted past, from the brutal finisher ‘Mudshovel’ to the ballad ‘So Far Away’.
The Massachusetts-born rockers perform with poise, precision and a certain degree of animation given the ferverant sobriety of their material, accepting well-known hits with humility and humour. Lewis proclaims the next song “pissed a lot of people off” before sounding the iconic introduction of ‘It’s Been Awhile’, and confesses ‘Outside’ was a “mistake”.
Nonetheless, Lewis feeds off the popularity of past glories, dividing singing duties between himself and the audience. From deep vocal screams to soaring melodies, Lewis’s performance occasionally wavers, but for the most part chills into the deep recesses of the soul. Guitarist Mushok completely contrasts this with deliberate inconsistency, leaping around and nailing every note with remarkable accuracy – even accepting rare mistakes with an amusing apologetic expression. April’s bass parts and backup vocals are fulfilled expertly as a melancholy mirror against Lewis, his pose frozen with theatrical, icy disdain. It is easy to conclude with a criticism of Staind’s rejection of expected rock show ideals, but their sombre stage presence only helps to solidify the essence of who they once were, who they are, and who they always will be: the masters of pain and sorrow.