BY ELLEN ELDRIDGE/AJC Staff Writer
That’s what Aaron Lewis brought from Staind into his solo act. And that’s what sold out The Buckhead Theatre Friday with fans who largely liked country but more so followed the singer into a new genre.
Instead of appeasing early fans with Staind originals, Lewis and his touring band slow down and restructure those songs so the effect is like picking up the lyrics and dropping them in a new genre.
One Staind song played about the middle of the set was the No. 1 hit “It’s Been Awhile,” off the 2001 release “Break the Cycle.”
He prefaced the song by reminding the crowd, “I wrote this a long (expletive) time ago.”
The drums sounded off and Lewis built tension and released a scream on the word “do” during the explicit chorus. Fans’ voices erupted in commiseration.
Lewis started the show promptly at 10 p.m. in patriotic fashion for Inauguration Day.
After walking on stage with a cigarette in his mouth, he took a drag and placed the butt in an ashtray. He told the sold-out crowd that he started his day watching the news as the 45th president was sworn in.
“It’s been a pretty good day,” Lewis said as fans cheered.
Then Lewis asked everyone wearing a hat to remove it and the people in the back balcony to stand if able. He recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
In a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Lewis described himself as a Republican, but said the word needs redefining.
He’s a fiscally conservative, socially libertarian, constitutionally driven patriot, in his words.
“Freedom means freedom,” Lewis said in the interview. “Get out of my business.”
He said he wants “capitalism with a conscience” and after backing Ted Cruz in the primary, he “proudly jumped into the basket of deplorables and voted for Trump.”
Lewis said he wouldn’t have a problem playing Trump’s Inauguration “like Beyoncé and everyone that would’ve.”
Those sentiments shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s listened to the lyrics for “Country Boy,” the first song of the night.
An interesting twist on those lyrics during the live show was that Lewis sang, “It’s been 19 years since I sold my soul to the devil in L.A.” The studio version, originally released on the “Town Line” EP in 2011, says it’s been 12 years.
Lewis played the title track for his recent full-length release, “Sinner” along with the single known for offending many in the country world, “That Ain’t Country.”
Between songs twice during the show, the crowd chanted “U.S.A” for no particular reason.
The feeling in the air wasn’t one of political fervor but American pride, especially as it relates to the military. Lewis allowed his guitarist to come onstage and perform a song he’d written about his service called “Folded Flag.”
After a set with the full band, Lewis returned to the stage accompanied by his acoustic guitar and powerful voice. He covered George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” in tribute, jokingly cajoling the fans who bailed on singing along with the high notes before nailing them himself.
Lewis also tipped his hat to Alice In Chains with a popular cover he’s been playing for more than a decade, “Nutshell,” before closing with a soulfully reconditioned “Outside.”