With the passage of a couple decades, a bestselling album has a way of becoming a time capsule, reflecting the zeitgeist of its particular era and reminding all who were there of how much the world has changed. In the context of the United States music scene circa Y2K, rock had something of an affable rivalry going on between the ascendant nu-metal trend and the somewhat older remnant of the Seattle sound that had evolved into what has since been dubbed post-grunge. But while many are wont to highlight the hip-hop meets groove metal trappings of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park in reference to the former, or the streamlined and more stylized take on the sound pioneered by Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains with regards to Godsmack and Creed, the band that arguably reconciled these two musical movements and truly summed up the era was the Massachusetts-born Staind, and particularly their career defining third studio album.
Coinciding with “Break The Cycle”’s 20th anniversary, this veteran quartet has opted to mark the occasion with a live performance of the album in its entirety, with testimonials from all the current band members interspersed within the event. The flavor of the whole affair had a slightly cinematic quality to it despite the generally down-to-earth tone of the interview segments and the correspondingly compelling yet humble stage presentation during the band’s stroll down the sonic corner of memory lane. Several elucidations regarding front man Aaron Lewis’ personal history served to somewhat demystify his method of songwriting, while regularly referring to his band mates as “the talent that brings them into full focus”, and also crediting their combined efforts with allowing his to pursue the various musical ventures he’s occupied himself with during Staind’s extended and recently concluded hiatus. His tone was generally of a laconic and stoic character, but also good humored and soft-spoken when compared to his onstage vocal persona.
The professionalism of the whole production was nothing short of stellar, as the band’s individual testimonial segments often featured well-placed video cutaways and seamless transitions from one member’s personal take on the band’s biography to the next. If one were not already familiar with this highly visible act from the early 2000s, the veritable retrospectives provided by guitarist Mike Mushok, bassist Johnny April and current drummer Sal Giancarelli would not only serve as a sufficient orientation to all things Staind, but also illuminate the web of musical influences and recent historical happenings that birthed their adoptive musical movement. Likewise, Lewis’ professed affinity for the country music he was exposed to via his grandfather’s influence as well as the singer-songwriter material his father preferred reveals the logic behind the band’s rather unique penchant for melancholy balladry with a highly personal and confessional lyrical content.
The performance of the album itself was a highly effective, if somewhat grittier rendition of the sonic yin vs. yang dynamic of “Break The Cycle”’s contents. Donning the typical everyman getup common to the era, they approached things as though there was a crowd present of a comparable size to the throngs that attended their 2019 Foxwoods concert, while the stage that housed them had correspondingly working class, empty warehouse style of atmosphere. Whether it was the blunt societal critique set to a heavy groove that was opener “Open Your Eyes”, the rhythmically nuanced and scream-steeped nu-metal romp “Can’t Believe”, or the signature introspective storytelling of ballad and smash hit “It’s Been A While”, there were no weak links to be found in the band’s collective performance. Perhaps the brightest highlight of the performance, and also the one that tied in the show’s combination rock concert meets retrospective flavor the most, was the rendition of the ironically infectious yet dark ballad “Outside”, which was preceded by footage of the live performance of the song from the 1999 Family Values tour that featured Lewis in a duet with Fred Durst, arguably the moment that paved the way for the band’s rise to prominent in the 2000s.
The final impression that was likely left by this live stream event in the eyes of Staind’s extensive fan base, at least if the comments in the live chat were any indication, was one of hope for more material in the near future. Often times the inspiration that paves the way for future accomplishments is carried by memories of the past, and the seminal period in this band’s career that was marked by the time period in question could well be the catalyst in a revived interest in the now largely dormant post-grunge scene. But more so than anything else, it was a reminder that better days are soon to come, and with the lockdowns easing more and more with each passing day and the promise of summer hanging in the air, the world is ready for a return to the days of celebration and fellowship that go with a live music event. When it arrives, Staind will be more than prepared to conquer the same heights that they ascended at the dawn of the current millennium.
Open Your Eyes / Pressure / Fade / It’s Been Awhile / Change / Can’t Believe / Epiphany / Suffer / Warm Safe Place / For You / Outside / Waste / Take It