Imagine you’re at the House of Blues in Orlando. You have a nice cold beer in hand, some friends to party with and great music buzzing your eardrums. On stage, you see a bar stool, a bottle of Fiji water, and a beer bottle placed on top of it. Suddenly, the lights cut completely – you see nothing but darkness in front of you. You begin to hear the voice of Johnny Cash; “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” begins to play as the audience’s cheers build louder and louder. As the song draws to a close, Aaron Lewis takes the stage with his band mates. He acknowledges the crowd before taking a puff of his cigarette and a quick sip of his beer. As his band mates play the opening riff to his song “Country Boy”, Aaron addresses the crowd, “If you’re sitting down, please stand up.” He then takes off his cap, “If you’re wearing a hat, please take it off. I’m going to start this show the way I start all my shows.”
I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America…”
As he recites the words to our country’s pledge, not a sound can be heard. You see everyone’s right hand placed on their chest. It isn’t until he finishes that the crowd begins cheering for him and Aaron begins to sing. It’s moments like this which prove, while he is a phenomenal performer, he is and always will be a patriot first, and I respect that.
When Aaron Lewis sings, you can hear a mixture of raw power, pride, and sorrow in his voice. When accompanied with a guitar, he easily manages to captivate you and make you feel emotions you didn’t feel before stepping into the venue. While he strums his guitar, he closes his eyes and appears to truly immerse himself into his music. He reaches deep inside to pull out the spirit which appears while he sings. Interestingly enough, with each song Aaron Lewis performs, you learn a little bit more about who he is, not only as a musician, but as a person. He believes that your friends and family are some of the most important things in life. He’s supports the troops fighting for country’s rights; the right to be able to enjoy shows without worry. He can’t relate to country music currently playing on the radio. Furthermore, he embraces his country roots with pride, all the while accepting any and all of his imperfections.
I personally only knew a handful of songs from his solo albums prior to his performance, (mainly just songs which he wrote while in his band, Staind). Luckily, Aaron Lewis makes sure people like me are covered by performing some of his older works, albeit a slight country twist to them. I could barely contain my excitement when I heard him sing out, “It’s Been Awhile…” Even if you had never heard any of Aaron Lewis’ music prior to the show, you were bound to start singing along at some point during the night. He does also introduce a bit of nostalgia in his performance, paying tribute to artists such as Jeffery Steele, the Foo Fighters, and the late George Michael.
But just when you think the show is over, Aaron Lewis surprises you with an encore. With each new performance, Aaron changes his encore ever so slightly, making each show a bit different for concert-goers. “Y’all are gonna have a long day tomorrow,” he jokes before beginning an eight song encore that’s so impressive, you’d believe it’s a second performance in the same night. But in spite of how late the show goes, no one starts heading for the door. Instead, they stayed and sang along, enjoying the rest of the night.
Earlier in the night before getting to experience a taste of Aaron’s incredible music, we were treated to two impressive acts – Travis Marvin and Alex Williams. Williams and his band performed with loads of energy and sonically reminded me a little bit of Waylon Jennings, especially during his song “Strange Days.” Meanwhile, Marvin, accompanied by only the acoustic guitar in his hands, sings about love and his family members who have made an impact on him as a person, specifically his grandfather. His voice is playful while he sings, his charisma shines on stage, and he keeps you entranced throughout his seven song set.
While Aaron Lewis might believe that “a country boy is all he’ll ever be,” he’s proven to those in Orlando, myself included, that he’s more than that – he’s a symbol of real country music is and proof of just how great it can be.
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