NEWARK, NJ—Daughtry’s performance at Newark’s Prudential Center was both expected and not. I expected the compressed guitars, somewhat the heavier-than-thou approach, but not lead singer and halftime guitarist Chris Daughtry’s demeanor and stage presence.
I spoke on the phone with the North Carolina native a couple of weeks prior for The Aquarian’s March 17 cover story on Daughtry, and the person on the other end of the line was just who I expected: Reserved yet candid, serious yet relaxed, humorous, and kind; definitely not the pacing southern boy with the macho-man attitude, maniacal grimace, and a full head of hair darkening his appearance that thoroughly threw me off. The Daughtry who hit the stage appeared far from the person who told me about his childhood insecurities, the gift from above that an easy-to-write song can be, and his four band mates that he holds near and dear to his heart. Where is he? I wondered. He was hiding, and no doubt with a little help from arms held high, gripping the mic and half covering his face when his guitar was not present.
Even though you could say that onstage Ziggy Stardust was not David Bowie, Lady Gaga is not Stefani Germanotta and “The Demon” in KISS is not Chaim Witz (aka Gene Simmons), they do have one thing in common: Their alter-egos may be more brazen and eccentric, but have no tougher an exterior than their interior. Who they are at their core, always shines through.
After dramatic music filled our ears, I stood directly to the left of the stage and watched as the crew stood in front of a large white curtain in the photo pit. They soon yanked it down in one fast paced motion and ran away with it, giving us the signal to run in with our cameras.
While Daughtry-the-lead-singer’s anger-filled glare did bother me as he trudged onto the stage, barely ever staying in one place for more than five seconds, I tried not to let it affect my assessment of Daughtry-the-band’s overall performance. Underneath the forced heaviness is a batch of well-written songs and hits alike. The problem with the excessive metal overtone during their live shows is that it can somewhat blend the songs into one another during the very structured and evenly paced set. While each song has a distinct difference, those differences become squashed when they should be accentuated and confidently displayed. “Call Your Name” off of Leave This Town is probably one of my favorite Daughtry songs, and watching Daughtry sing it solo under a spotlight at the end of the stage’s push, with just his voice and an acoustic guitar, was just what I was waiting for. It soon exploded into its heavy ending, but for the two minutes and 35 seconds leading up to it, I was in bliss.
Drummer Joey Barnes never escaped his thunderous groove, and was always in the pocket of every song— while well-lit under lights that flickered from red to blue to golden, sometimes with green lazers—and displayed loads of personality from his prestigious placement behind his kit on a larger than life drum riser in front of a backdrop that rotated three times throughout the show.
Bassist Josh Paul was hanging in the pocket with Barnes, and they both held down a solid groove for guitarists Josh Steely and Brian Craddock, who, despite the hefty compression, appear to both be melodic shredders. The band collectively ran through “No Surprise,” “It’s Not Over,” “September,” “Home,” and two covers (“In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins—through which I eagerly awaited the drum fill—and “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol). They ended their encore with “There And Back Again” off of Daughtry, which was so metallic that I didn’t even recognize it as one of their own.
I couldn’t help but notice that 80 percent of the band was often smiling and clearly enjoyed being onstage with each other, for the audience in a near sold out arena right outside of New York City. There is no doubt in my mind that Daughtry himself was feeling the same way, but I would have loved to read it on his face. The person an artist is onstage can be different than who they are offstage, but works best if the two characters really are one in the same underneath it all, and it is shown.