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Aaron Lewis strips Staind standards to their core

  • Aaron Lewis performs Staind hits on acoustic guitar at Penn's Peak Thursday night. JOE PLASKO TIMES NEWS
    Aaron Lewis performs Staind hits on acoustic guitar at Penn's Peak Thursday night. JOE PLASKO TIMES NEWS
Published July 09. 2010 05:00PM

Staind has sold millions of albums with its brand of power-packed, stinging metal and brooding hard rock.

At the heart of those songs is frontman Aaron Lewis and his signature Gibson guitar.

Lewis has embarked on a solo acoustic tour, a vehicle that has its appeal not only to Lewis but to his Staind fans, with 1,000 of them showing up to Penn's Peak at Jim Thorpe Thursday night to catch him in action, up close and personal.

Vocally, Lewis has been compared to grunge rock singer Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, but Lewis also has a soulful expressiveness in his voice that carries an emotional wallop.

Even when Staind's anthems of alienation are stripped down to their acoustic skin, Lewis infuses them with plenty of bite.

After taking to the stage, Lewis opened with one of Staind's biggest hits, "So Far Away", thus delivering on his promise to perform songs everyone would know.

Next, however, Lewis pulled off an shockingly effective cover of 4-Non Blondes' 90's hit, "What's Up?", which might have been as far in left field a choice that one could imagine. Lewis himself admitted he didn't know why he sang it, although it did allow him to show off the upper end of his vocal range, as did snippets of pop-metal such as Skid Row's "I Remember You" and Guns'N'Roses power ballad "Patience".

Lewis even toyed with some straight pop, ripping off verses of The Outfield's "Your Love" and Rick Springfield's "Jessie's Girl" and even tapping into Prince's "Purple Rain" to provide a change of pace; he even rolled off the chorus of White Lion's "When the Children Cry" while mentioning his disdain for the original.

"Country Boy" is Lewis' ode to his roots, with a nod to Hank Williams, Jr. In fact, Lewis mentioned he had recorded that song and another new one he performed, "Vicious Circles", in Nashville, hinting that he has begun "flirting with country."

Ultimately, however, Lewis gave the crowd what it came for: a healthy dose of Staind standards.

The stark beauty of Lewis ballads such a "Tangled Up in You" and "Zoe Jane" was on display, matched by the intensity of "Fill Me Up" and "Blow Away".

The biggest reaction was reserved for two of Staind's biggest hits.

"Outside", with the audience singing along on the familiar chorus, "I'm on the outside/I'm looking in/I can see through you/see your true colors/Cause inside you're ugly, you're ugly like me", was a highlight, as was megahit "It's Been Awhile", which still retains its intoxicating impact.

One secret of Lewis' success is that he is unafraid to cut to the emotional bone with his songs. That was no more apparent than on his encore, "Intro", in which he stepped away from the microphone and strummed his guitar, thanking the people in his life for putting up with him as the crowd watched in hushed admiration.

All of that is more than enough for a night's work, but Lewis expressed his desire to raise funds to keep a school in his hometown open after the local school district moved to close it down. He has even formed the It Takes A Community Foundation with his wife to benefit rural communities throughout his home of the greater New England area.

This was entertainment with a purpose, and perhaps some of his fans left the show thinking for themselves a little more, as well as humming along to their Staind favorites.

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