Scott Stapp @ Starland Ballroom

SAYREVILLE, NJ—On a wet, thunderous Saturday night, I decided to grab a buddy and head on down to the Starland Ballroom. The weather was atrocious and there were plenty of downed telephone wires, included one that was shooting sparks. There were flood warnings, a storm watch and all that good stuff that makes traveling risky. But what the hell? I figured a 45-minute voyage to Sayreville in a monsoon would be well worth it seeing as how Creed singer Scott Stapp would be performing a rare, intimate acoustic show. I haven’t seen Scott perform since 2002 when he was with Creed so I was a bit curious to hear how he sounds now.

Upon entering the venue, I was a bit shocked by the setup. Instead of the usual standing room only tickets, reserved tables and seats took up the first floor, with the second floor being general admission. I was seated at table one, dead smack in front of the stage. The level with the bar was absolutely crammed and I don’t even know how that many people managed to squeeze in. This was a full house, with the fan base generally in their upper 20s and lower 30s, with women outnumbering men nearly two to one. There was no opening act, just Scott, his two guitarists and his drummer providing the entertainment for the night. Doors opened at 7 p.m. and the crew took the stage at 8:20 p.m.

Fittingly, “Are You Ready?” kicked off the set. The drums were vigorously smashed, the acoustic guitars went full speed and it felt much more like a rock show than a toned down, acoustic one. On the following song, “Bullets,” Scott had a fiery, serious look on his face when during the chorus. After the track, he welcomed the crowd for braving it out and making it to the venue due to the storm. Fans roared, rewarding him a solid minute of applause before he described the atmosphere as “electric.” He then acknowledged that he’s made numerous mistakes in his life, which led into the next song, “My Own Prison.” It was much more subdued than the first two, but the guitars fit right in with Scott’s dynamic voice.

The fourth song was “I’m Eighteen,” which is, of course, a great Alice Cooper hit. Stapp was really into it, jumping out of his seat to yell, “I’m Eighteen!” It turned out to be an excellent rendition of the old song. He then played one of Creed’s biggest hits, “What’s This Life For.” Most of the crowd put their index fingers in the air during the line “we all live under the reign of one king.” Fans again heavily cheered, getting out of their seats in order to give him a standing ovation after the track. In response, Scott said he loved the audience and told them “it feels great to know that you guys have my back in a fight.”

After “The Great Divide” and “Surround Me” came the legendary, Grammy-winning hit “With Arms Wide Open.” Believe it or not, it actually sounded better than the studio version. Simply put, it was an epic song to hear on acoustic. Fans were moving and grooving in their seats while Stapp sang “One.” Then they really started getting into it with “One Last Breath.” It was like a giant sing-along, as the smooth acoustic guitars were played and the entire place recited the lyrics. The turning point of the concert was “Higher.” Scott asked all the fans to stand and, of course, they did. Everyone waved their arms back and forth, as Scott proved that he can still make a place go absolutely wild, even with an intimate, acoustic song.

The crowd remained standing during the brief intermission, chanting “Scott, Scott, Scott!” He then came out with a guitar for himself and dedicated the song, “Crazy In Love,” which will be on his upcoming solo album, Between Lust And Love, to his wife. He closed out the 14 song set list at 10 p.m. with “My Sacrifice” and “Justify.” Stapp posted on Twitter after the event, “What an amazing show 2night Sayreville, NJ! Ur energy and passion gave me goose bumps all night.”

The type of energy really was something I’ve never seen at a show and I look forward to seeing him again the next time he comes around. Like Scott told me in an interview last month, he really enjoys performing in the NJ/NY area and, damn, it really showed. What an awesome show from one of rock’s most successful vocalists.