Throughout the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Aaron Lewis was one of the most recognizable voices in hard rock, moving more than 15 million albums in Staind, selling out multiple “Family Values” tours and collaborating with Limp Bizkit. Although not a stranger to unplugging from time to time, the decision take a country detour as a solo artist took many by surprise, however 2011’s single “Country Boy” picked right up where his platinum selling status left off.
Even if he never reunites with Staind, longtime fans can take solace in Lewis being just as vocally potent and outspoken as ever, while country purists are also sure to appreciate his steadfast quest for authenticity.
Now a half decade on his own, Lewis has steadily become a dependable troubadour who bares more in common with outlaws like George Jones and Waylon Jennings than any of today’s crossover bros on the charts. No, he might not be selling out arenas at the moment, but the former front man pulled in pretty sizeable numbers at The Venue In Horseshoe Casino in Hammond (just a stone’s throw from Chicago), which also provided a more suitable platform for recent material.
Prior to the music getting started, Lewis set the evening’s patriotic tone by calling all to their feet to recite “The Pledge Of Allegiance” in front of a floor to ceiling American flag backdrop. Shortly thereafter, he cracked open a beer, lit a cigarette and strolled over to his guitar with the ease of a guy going to the backyard, nestling quite comfortably into “Country Boy.”
From there, Lewis and his four piece band debuted several brand new tunes from the upcoming “Sinner” album (set to include contributions from Willie Nelson and Chris Stapleton), alongside cuts from 2012’s “The Road” and the prior year’s “Town Line.” All the while, songs such as “Granddaddy’s Gun,” “Red, White & Blue” and “That Ain’t Country” stayed glued to tradition, but there was no mistaking this powerful set of pipes belonged to the former Staind singer.
Speaking of that band, the nearly two hour set list was peppered with at least a half-dozen remembrances, including a twanged-up take on “It’s Been Awhile,” plus solo acoustic renditions of “Everything Changes,” “So Far Away,” and “Outside,” all of which fit much closer to the current direction than many might expect. Even if he never reunites with Staind, longtime fans can take solace in Lewis being just as vocally potent and outspoken as ever, while country purists are also sure to appreciate his steadfast quest for authenticity.
Upcoming concert highlights at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino include Jennifer Nettles (March 18); Boyz II Men (March 25); Floetry and Musiq Soulchild (April 16 and May 1); Whitesnake (July 10) and The Monkees (July 11). For additional details, visit TheVenueChicago.com and Ticketmaster.com.