August 19th, 2013 at 5:47 pm
Humans voices don’t lie. And with a few notable exceptions (I’m thinking of you, Arnel Pineda), the task of replacing a longtime lead singer usually ends up with the same predictable result: close, but ultimately lacking.
That very situation made Sunday (Aug. 18) night’s concert at the Arkansas Music Pavilion not necessarily a lackluster affair, but one unfulfilled. Perhaps the wear and tear of a decade on the road together is finally consuming the bands of the late 1990s, because both Hinder and Three Days Grace are working with a new vocalist after their frontman departed. Hinder leader Austin Winkler left in early July to deal with “personal issues,” which was later reported to lead to a stint in rehab, and Three Days Grace vocalist Adam Gontier departed from the band he’d led since 1997 for health reasons. He must already be healthy, considering he’s already started a new solo project.
Modern rock of the ilk of Three Days Grace and Hinder often gets criticized — and often rightfully so — for its formulaic approach. Call it the Nickelback revolution — bands, many of them from Canada (like Nickelback and Three Days Grace) flooded rock radio in the late 1990s and early 2000s with similar-sounding songs. In many occassions, there was an incestuous quality, as Chad Kroeger of Nickelback served as tastemaker of sorts, signing bands such as Theory of a Deadman to a record deal.
That rock music factory applied in theory to the bands topping the bill Sunday, as both reached toward other modern rock bands to find a replacement. Winkler’s stand-in, at least temporarily, is Jared Weeks of Saving Abel. Matt Walst, lead singer of Canadian rock band My Darkest Days (see the pattern here!) and brother to Three Days Grace bassist Brad Walst, joined as Gontier’s replacement in January.
Those changes might be known to some of the band’s more passionate fans, but it didn’t seem to stop the crowd from showing up on a beautiful Arkansas night. I’d estimate the crowd at about 1,500, and a good mix between male and female. It did trend a little younger than I expected — for a pair of bands that arguably peaked in the mid-2000s, as many of their fans present Sunday might have been born in 1995 than actively following them at that time.
Most of them sang with abandon, and if the crowd perceived a difference from the changes of frontmen, they didn’t care.
If the theory of the infinite modern rock factory were true, no one would have noticed any differences in Sunday’s concert. But in neither example was that the case.
Weeks seems like a nice enough guy, and he nailed versions of “Addicted” and “The Sex is Good,” the two Saving Abel songs the combined Saving Abel-Hinder union offered Sunday. But he lacked some of the abrasive swagger of Winkler, the kind of party-hard mentality that pushed “Lips of an Angel,” Hinder’s most recognizable hit, up the modern rock charts.
Matt Walst is a fine vocalist, too, but his voice never quite soared like Gontier’s does on the many hits Three Days Grace has recorded over the years, such as “Riot,” “I Hate Everything About You” and “Animal I Have Become.” Perhaps it has something to do with not feeling the songs quite like their author does. A trained vocalist should hit the same notes another one does, but it’s the nuance and feeling they add that sets them apart. Absent that kind of internal knowledge, the formula on Sunday turned into more of an equation. Technically, the number of parts added up to a full band. But in reality, the subtractions and subsequent additions never added up to the full amount again.
A note: I didn’t make it in time for The Otherwise. Anyone catch that set?