Thursday night in Pittsburgh, Creed came alive for the very first time since... the previous evening, when the band played a full-production rehearsal concert for 50 contest winners. But Thursday's show was the first official Creed gig since the Weathered tour ended in January 2003, days after frontman Scott Stapp's infamous drunken meltdown in Chicago.
Six years later, the group was back to launch the Full Circle tour, which shares a name with the band's upcoming new album. (It's due in October.) Full Circle's lead-off single, "Overcome," was the only new material present in Creed's public rebirth. The 17-song best-of set featured 11 of 13 songs from the band's double-platinum 2004 Greatest Hits album. Other favorites from the band's three previous records — which, combined, have moved 25 million copies in the U.S. alone — reminded the crowd that Creed were once kings of arena rock.
Opening night drew a capacity crowd close to 15,000 of diehards from the band's first run, longtime followers seeing them for the first time, teens with emo hair, parents with grade-school kids in tow, classic-rock lifers wearing new Van Halen tour shirts, and rock fans collectively clad in boatloads of Steelers and Penguins merchandise.
The tour reunites the original lineup for the first time since 2000, when bassist Brian Marshall left. They're playing as a quintet, with touring rhythm guitarist Eric Friedman. It's Creed's biggest production ever. Stapp showered the crowd with constant thanks, but didn't make any big speeches. The band let their sweat do the talking.
Playing in front of three giant video screens, Creed opened with "Ode," Stapp shaking his shaved head like he still had a lion's mane, grinning ear-to-ear as he leaned on guitarist Mark Tremonti. As the song ended, Stapp declared, "We have just come full circle!"
The band followed with the metallic "Bullets," playing in a semi-circle of erupting flame clouds, and the song ended in a salvo of fireworks. Stapp introduced "My Own Prison" as "the song that started it all." He delivered the song — and many other anthems of loss, redemption, unity, and faith — pointing to his chest hard enough to bruise it, making it clear: if the song wasn't a true, autobiographical story in 1997, it is now.
Onstage (and off), the band displayed no hints of any lingering tension. From the first moments, Stapp and Tremonti didn't miss a chance to lock eyes from across the stage and bang heads in unison. Stapp still strikes big poses, like a hot-dogging surfer, knees bent, pounding his chest, pointing to the sky. The singer's voice is still working toward its full depth, but he still holds notes in bedrock delivery. Tremonti was all smiles delivering his simple, majestic riffs. The rhythm section flexed for a tooth-rattling slow groove in "Never Die." Dressed in T-shirts and jeans, the band still look — and move — like their younger selves.
"Somebody tell me this is not a dream," said Stapp between songs.
The crowd broke out an even mix of cell phones and lighters for sing-along hits like "What's This Life For." Eight songs in, Stapp had removed his shirt, revealing tattoos and ripples. Creed closed the set closed with "Higher." As Stapp climbed the drum riser before the songs's climax, the crowd's roars gave way to applause as band played its stately riff in a rain of sparks.
For the encore — "One," "One Last Breath," and "My Sacrifice," which Stapp dedicated to the crowd and the overseas troops — Tremonti and a shirtless Stapp stood back-to-back on the stage's runway, surrounded by the crowd, Stapp's traps glistening in a shower of white light. They two looked like onetime WWE favorites reunited to reclaim the tag-team title.
"Thank you so much," Stapp told the crowd. "God bless you. What a homecoming this is."
"My Own Prison"
"What's This Life For"
"Are You Ready"
"With Arms Wide Open"
"One Last Breath"