3 Doors Down
With Seether and We Are Harlot
The Bomb Factory
July 8, 2015
What if the pioneering grunge bands of the early '90s had given in to their record labels? Life could've been so easy. They could have played things safe, made their music more accessible and carried on selling records for as long as possible. If they had, those bands would probably sound something like 3 Doors Down who, a decade and a half since their biggest hit "Kryptonite," played The Bomb Factory Wednesday night to a huge, adoring crowd, dancing all night long with the ghost of grunge.
It's certainly a formula that works; one need look no further than the band's record sales to know that — or, for that matter, no further than the crowds who lined up for the show along Canton Street yesterday. The night kicked off with opener We Are Harlot, who set the tone with 30 minutes of rock that sounded like a mash up of Stone Temple Pilots, Queen and Mötley Crüe. (They even covered Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down.”) Monitor issues threw them off their momentum and they tried to fix everything between songs. Plus, the band struggled through a muffled sound mix, but they joked with the patient crowd and got through their set.
Seether came on next and played to the largest gathering of fans, taking up almost all of the ground floor and upper level. Over the course of 11 songs, frontman Shaun Morgan performed as a caricature, which was fitting since his band’s sound is a caricature of (exceptionally better) bands like Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Nirvana. Morgan’s voice doesn’t downplay his love of Layne Staley and Kurt Cobain, and he clearly doesn’t care for pundit purists. The four-piece kept the stage banter to the barest minimum and slung one polished turd of a song after another to the crowd, who couldn't get enough of it.
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Morgan's songwriting comes across like it was honed in high school, heavily influenced by Dirt, Nevermind, Badmotorfinger, Siamese Dream and American Thighs, and then ceased to develop any further. The lyrics to these songs, sung along to by many in the crowd, were laughable — laughable as in they should be hidden away in a closet, too embarrassing to revisit down the road. “She’s got nothing to say/She’s got bills to pay/She’s got no one to hate/Except for me,” Morgan yelled during “Gasoline,” one of many songs meant to be the audio equivalent of middle fingers to former lovers. Thankfully Seether did not play their version of Wham!’s “Careless Whisper.”
Five minutes before 10:00, the lights dimmed for 3 Doors Down. They opened with their crossover ballad “Here Without You” to uproarious applause and proceeded to play a slew of their hits along with songs from their forthcoming fall album, Us and the Night. Frontman Brad Arnold had an “aww-shucks” smile plastered on his face throughout the quintet’s 17 songs. Their sound was crystal clear and balanced as they delivered songs like “Let Me Go,” “Changes” and “The Road I’m On.”
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The set traveled down the straight and narrow road that the band has always been careful to travel. The messages of moving on in life came across as generic and safe. Like Seether’s stage banter, Arnold simply thanked the crowd with a smile. The most he shared was at the very end where he encouraged those who took video of the show to post it online so the band could see. Arnold also happily grabbed a few phones from the crowd and filmed them before handing them back (a nice little touch). Finishing with an encore of “Kryptonite” and “When I’m Gone,” the night was over just a little after 11:00.
This certainly wasn’t a life-changing show for anybody, but that’s not what Seether or 3 Doors Down fans come for. There's no room for the rawness or lacerating self-doubt of the grunge bands that preceded and so clearly inspired them. People wanted to hear their favorite anthems, have a few drinks and head home early and go to work the following day. They like the hair metal version of grunge and think nothing more of it, which is about as deep as these bands care to go.
Personal bias: I wasn’t expecting to change my tune about either Seether or 3 Doors Down at this show. Neither band had ever registered with me as one I should dig further into, but I wanted to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone.
Overheard in the crowd: During Seether’s set: “You remember George Michael, the gay guy?” After Seether’s set: “Seether used the F-word a lot.” And in reference to “Here Without You”: “This is my favorite song of all time. No. 1!"