The 2010-2011 Aaron Lewis “Solo and Acoustic” tour has transformed after the release of his debut solo E.P., Town Line. When the tour opened in 2010 it was Aaron in the purest sense–his voice and an acoustic guitar. Ben Kitterman (dobro and pedal steel guitar) would accompany him on the few tracks that he planned to include on Town Line, adding a touch of country flair to the set and offering a glimpse of Aaron’s forthcoming effort; one that has since gained Aaron Lewis an album that has charted #1 on U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums, #3 on U.S. Billboard Top Rock Albums, and received a couple 2011 CMT Music Awards nominations. Following the success of his solo release, and perhaps the reception of Kitterman’s abilities during the live shows, Ben joined Aaron for the majority of this night’s performance.
Aaron took the stage with nothing more than a coffee and his cigarettes, just after 7 pm, at the Cabaret Theater inside the Mystique Casino in Dubuque, IA; the first of two shows this evening. He began to sit, then nonchalantly said, “Oh, I need a guitar!” and grabbed a prized acoustic from one of three guitar cases propped open behind his stool. His relaxed demeanor mirrored the setting: sans setlist or frills; a huge American flag proudly displayed as the backdrop; and only eight rows of chairs, sectioned into three columns, no more than 8-12 chairs across. Yes, you read that right, no more than 250 fans were granted access into a space that Aaron Tweeted as “quaint” when he arrived a few hours earlier. After a moment of thought he started into Fill Me Up. By request Aaron next played Everything Changes to the crowd’s approval. He acknowledged the respectfulness of the crowd, and appreciated their attention, a stark contrast to the crowd that would appear for the 9:00 pm show.
He welcomed Ben Kitterman to the stage before starting into the third song, signaling a transition to a country vibe. Aaron continues to introduce Ben as the tour bus driver for Staind, despite his abilities being showcased on this tour. The first country song of the night was George Jones’s Bartender’s Blues. Aaron then took a moment to mention finding an appreciation for a song written by Jeffrey Steele, and then played What Hurts the Most. He’s not the first musician to have made a connection with this song, it has been previously recorded by Mark Wills, and more notably, made popular by Rascal Flatts. Aaron knocked it out.
Aaron added additional depth to the night by requesting another guest, Kenny Olson from Twisted Brown Trucker, Kid Rock’s band, to join in on electric guitar. The focus turned toward Town Line as they performed The Story Never Ends, Massachusetts, Vicious Circles, and Tangled Up In You. He surprised the crowd by playing previously unrecorded Seventy Five, a song that was written after Town Line was in production stage. The song portrays the weary road-life and the toll it takes, suggesting that stardom does not come without cost. Kenny loaned his talent’s to one more song, Staind’s Outside before exiting.
As Aaron glanced at his watch he looked somewhat dumbfounded that the night was slipping past, and they had limited time to finish the first set before the 9:00 pm show was scheduled to commence. He and Ben closed the set with It’s Been Awhile and Country Boy. Aaron came back alone to perform a truly acoustic version of Intro, common protocol on the tour, as he unplugged and propped his stool at the far edge of the stage and sang to a hushed audience.
We were fortunate to also gain access to his second set and, though there were a number of similarities, the shows were altogether different. The 9:00 pm crowd was drastically different from the earlier audience, chatting loudly amongst themselves and were frequently up-and-about hitting the restroom and adjacent bar. It was a handful of people at the onset but grew in number as the show progressed. Aaron, often noted for performing covers during his set, also decided to mix it up during the second act by playing into a few requests including bits of Prince’s Purple Rain and Lauper’s Time After Time. He also started the second set with Ben Kitterman on stage.
Despite Aaron’s growing dissatisfaction with the crowd, he played a solid, if not improved, complete second set. It was also obvious that Aaron was playing through discomfort in his fingers though it did not show in the performance–perhaps six hours over two nights might have been a bit too much after spending a couple weeks in the studio.
Several highlights on the night seemed to all appear during the second set. Aaron’s vocals shined on Please, a Staind request during the second set, and the first time Ben had performed this song with Aaron. Anger and pain are often conveyed through Staind material, but on this stripped-down acoustic version the anger transformed to pure emotion as his voice echoed through the room. Aaron joked frequently on the night and he asked Ben to “show the crowd what you got!” Ben obliged and jammed solo for a few minutes on the dobro to the delight of everybody. They also introduced the crowd to a new Staind song, Something to Remind You, a haunting revelation on life’s end. Staind’s new album is in the finishing stages and should be out soon. It was great to get a taste of the new music.
First show (7:05 – 8:30 pm)
1. Fill Me Up (Staind)
2. Everything Changes (Staind)
3. Bartender’s Blues (George Jones cover)
4. What Hurts the Most (Jeffrey Steele cover)
5. The Story Never Ends
7. Seventy Five (Unreleased)
8. Vicious Circles
9. Tangled Up In You (Staind)
10. Outside (Staind)
11. It’s Been A While (Staind)
12. Country Boy
13. Intro (Staind; unplugged)
Second show (9:10 – 10:40 pm)
1. Ephiphany (Staind)
2. Who Are You When I’m Not Looking (Blake Shelton cover)
3. Purple Rain/Open Arms/Time After Time/Rainbow Connection/Every Rose Has Its Thorn montage
(Prince/Journey/Cyndi Lauper/Kermit the Frog/Poison covers)
4. Please (Staind)
5. What Hurts the Most (Jeffrey Steel cover)
7. The Story Never Ends
8. Seventy Five (Unreleased)
9. Vicious Circles
10. Something to Remind You (Staind unreleased)
Ben solo on Dobro
11. Outside (Staind)
12. It’s Been A While (Staind)
13. Country Boy
14. Intro (Staind, unplugged)
Head over to Sonic Rampage for in depth concert reviews and more photos.
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