Mercifully missing from the music scene since they broke up in June 2004, Florida pomp-rockers Creed are back, and though they've reportedly been playing to half-empty sheds on their summer reunion tour, some fans are thrilled.
I am not one of them.
More than any other group in the late '90s, singer Scott Stapp, guitarist Mark Tremonti, drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall epitomized the sad end of the alternative era as it petered out in a flurry of hollow poses, pointless bombast and corporate commodification.
When I consider the worst concerts I've ever endured, Creed's stop at the Allstate Arena in early 2002 always springs to mind. "Was there a single overdone arena-rock cliché that Creed avoided?" I asked in my review. "There was fog, moody blue lighting, great gushing geysers of flame, shooting fireworks, a hail of sparks and invocations to raise those lighters high.
"There were towering Greek columns, a ramp for pretty-boy singer Stapp to run around, the occasional explosion and giant video screens. There were also several 'How you doing, Chicago?''s, numerous declarations of this audience being 'the best in the world' and emotional references to Sept. 11 (properly setting up the melodramatic power ballad 'One') and Stapp's son (subject of the even more over-the-top power ballad 'With Arms Wide Open').
"Hey, wait, I know: Stapp the preachy spiritualist avoided his patented 'nailed to the cross' stage pose, a staple of previous shows!" I concluded. "How could he? I want my money back!"
In the annals of Creed in Chicago, that wasn't even the band's worst concert. That dishonor goes to the group's return trip to the same venue later that year, on Dec. 29, 2002. That show prompted disgruntled concertgoers to do more than ask for their money back: Some filed a class-action lawsuit against the band--the first case I know of where music lovers took legal action against a band for being lousy.
Filed in Cook County Circuit Court, four local concertgoers claimed that Stapp was so "intoxicated and/or medicated that he was unable to sing the lyrics of a single Creed song." Instead he "left the stage on several occasions during songs for long periods of time, rolled around on the floor of the stage in apparent pain or distress and [finally] appeared to pass out."
The suit further alleged that Stapp's bandmates, managers and concert promoters knew the singer was in no condition to perform but let the train wreck happen anyway, and they were named as codefendants. Finally, it asked for a full refund of the ticket price and parking costs for all 15,000 concertgoers--a cost of about $2 million.
Though the band balked at the request, it did issue a mea culpa press release: "We apologize if you don't feel that the show was up to the very high standards set by our previous shows in Chicago. We also understand and appreciate the fact that there has been much concern about Scott's health [and he] is taking a much needed break at home in Orlando.... For now, we hope that you can take some solace in the fact that you definitely experienced the most unique of all Creed shows."
Stapp later told the Orlando Sentinel that he hadn't passed out; he'd made "a symbolic, personal gesture" by dropping to the floor and playing unconscious. "It was a symbol that I didn't think anybody had my back at the time. Some people get it. Some people don't." (He has since admitted he did have a substance abuse problem at the time.)
Any way you cut it, if "unique" was one way to describe that gig, "disastrous rip-off" was another. But Judge Peter Flynn dismissed the case in September 2003. "He absolutely gutted their lawsuit," Creed attorney Rob McNeely told MTV News. "He said to their lawyer, 'You're asking judges to become rock critics. You're asking us to decide what's a good show and what's a bad show, and that's no business of the judiciary.' And he said, 'If I were to agree with you, it would have a chilling effect on the arts.'"
That wasn't all Judge Flynn said, though. He dismissed the suit with prejudice, rejecting the plaintiff's particular argument but leaving it open for them to amend it and file again within 30 days using a different one--which he suggested. "He thought that if the case proceeds at all it should be on a basis of 'frustrated commercial expectations,'" the fans' attorney, Daniel Voelker, told MTV. "It's unusual for a judge to give what might be viewed as legal advice."
Alas, court records indicate that the suit was never amended, so the world still waits for the first example of angry fans getting a court-ordered refund for a rotten show. Meanwhile, Creed is back, on tour and soon enough on album: Its fourth studio disc, "Full Circle," is scheduled to be released on Oct. 27.
Talking to MTV News about the new album, Stapp said "there's a sexiness to it... really sexy." And he added, "It's time for us to say, 'Here we are. This is who we are.' No shame, no embarrassment and no worry about what anyone else thinks."
Actually, given that notorious 2002 concert and its refusal to reimburse the Chicago fans who witnessed it, caring what people think never seems to have been too much of a problem with this band.
First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, Tinley Park
6 p.m. Tuesday [Sept. 1]
Tickets $19 to $85