April 29, 2016 The Used Celebrate 15 Years At Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ 4-12-16
Back in September of 2015, Utah based Rock band The Used recorded a live album at The Palace Theater in Los Angeles, California. A unique performance with a string quartet, harpist, piano player, percussion, and Gospel choir, The Used: Live & Acoustic At The Palace hit the public as a CD/DVD set on April 1st. A chance for fans to own a piece of The Used history, the documented concert is a touching and storytelling experience. Fittingly, The Used kicked off a very special fifteenth anniversary tour following the album’s release, one that would be two-nights per city event. Within their extended stay in each city, they will be performing their 2002 debut, self-titled album on the first night and 2004’s In Love and Death, both in their entirety.
An epic way to celebrate an impressive fifteen years as a band, the tour found its way to Tempe, Arizona on Tuesday, April 12th, for the first of two at Marquee Theatre. Met with a long line along the side street of the venue, up and over the Salt River bridge back to the stoplight a little over a half a mile away, ticket holders eagerly awaited for the doors to open. Many in the crowd were chatting about their memories of The Used shows in the past. With that, there was a sort of unspoken camaraderie developing between total strangers who were sharing, laughing, and reminiscing. Judging by the configuration of the tour cycle, that is exactly what The Used had in mind, an experience to create a moment in time with their fans, and the walk down memory lane was just about to begin.
Helping set the mood for the evening was opening act The New Regime. Those who are not familiar with The New Regime, it is the solo project of accomplished Drummer Ilan Rubin. Having played with everyone from Nine Inch Nails, to Angels & Airwaves, to Paramore, Rubin has a storied career worth talking about. Initially beginning his solo project back in 2007, Rubin debuted with the album Coup in 2008. A multi-instrumental master, Rubin returned with the compelling new EP Exhibit B back in March of 2015. An offering well received, it was now time for Tempe to learn more about Rubin and The New Regime.
Rubin claims influences from those of the Classic Rock genre, including Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Beatles, and The Police. Thus, when Rubin and his touring band began playing songs from Exhibit B, those flash-riffs and burns could be heard as they throbbed out of the layered music created while speaking from Rubin’s guitar work. Quickly thanking The Used, Rubin stated they could have chosen anyone to tour with, but they allowed him, and he was eternally grateful. No stranger to the Tempe area, Rubin felt right at home at Marquee Theatre and the audience received his return well. Playing tracks like “Where I’ve Headed All Along,” Rubin captured the audience as he also admitted it is one of his favorites off Exhibit B. Moving forward, “We Rise, We Fall” and “Mannequin” both showcased his undeniable strength and diversity as a musician as well as songwriter. Each track was colorful, well executed, but most of all fresh sounding. Leaving the audience yearning for more, The New Regime set the stage for the crowd who were elated for The Used, who were coming up shortly thereafter.
As the time approached for The Used to begin, smiles were on the faces of the packed venue, anticipating the celebration. The stage was decorated with the self-titled album cover art and posed in a fashionable NY city upscale store window setting. There were nude mannequins of both men, women, and children. In a strange and odd edgy scene, they almost looked as if they were out for a Sunday stroll in Central Park. Nonetheless, the whole stage setting was surreal, but it was the perfect backdrop to night one.
With a visual set, the house lights went down, and the crowd raved wildly, Vocalist Bert McCracken stepped out on the platform. The overwhelming emotion from the onslaught between the audience and McCracken began with the first song, fittingly the album’s opening, “Maybe Memories.” Grinning ear to ear, both McCracken and the audience were just getting acquainted for an evening that would be full of memories. Performing the record in order, the album’s second single, “The Taste of Ink,” came next to even more joyful noise from the room. Early in the set, between tracks, McCracken shared his gratitude, almost at times seeming overwhelmed by what The Used have accomplished and created… maybe even survived… along their own tumultuous chosen path in the world of music. The crowd was deep and heavy, moving almost like a flock of starlings, a murmuration if you would, to the words, the sounds, and the music of The Used.
Before the song “Bulimic,” the stage lights came up as McCracken gave pause to state these two records “were very personal and this tour of performing was very therapeutic for him.” It was during that time McCracken almost seemed overwhelmed by emotion as he placed his hand across his eyes, then ran it up and over his head. It was when his hand ended at the back of his head that everyone in the audience noticed the sparkle in his eyes, and the broad grin across his face was the perspicuous mark of appreciation. In addition, the entire band seemed to be having the time of their lives as well. This could be seen as Guitarist Justin Shekoski, Bassist Jeph Howard, and Drummer Dan Whitesides passionately played their instruments as the audience sang along with McCracken.
Every single word of the album being celebrated was on the lips of the audience, even the staff, who could not resist but sing along. Aware that everyone knew the lyrics quite well, there were several times McCracken gave the audience the floor throughout the night to sing. A dream come true for any artist, McCracken would go quiet, listen, and simply just smile. Ramped up, as the crowd was in full body surfing, and security was doing their best to keep up with those who came over the barricade wall, the band went into “Say Days Ago.” As McCraken encouraged a massive circle pit, bodies began slamming, floating, bumping, and losing control in a positive way.
Later on, “Buried Myself Alive” and the headbanging “A Box Full of Sharp Objects” showed the jolts of instinctive gut McCracken contains. From there into “Blue and Yellow’s,” and the band showed off their scope. At this point, McCracken became silent and confessed, “I’m gonna try and say this without sounding too cliche, but these first two records really saved my life.” A telling statement, the crowd cried out in agreement with all the unison and support they could muster. Moving into “Greener With the Scenery,” “Noise and Kisses,” and “On My Own,” it could be quite possible that the album saved many listeners’ lives in one way or another too.
As the evening began to wind down, McCracken asked, “Out of curiosity, how many of you are coming tomorrow night?” Hoping to hear they were, the fans confirmed with a roar of cheers both nights were on their evening agendas. McCracken then stated, “I’m telling you, tomorrow night, bring your tissues.” With that statement in mind, The Used seared the room with their hard-hitting rocker “Pieces Mended” to end the set. Not at all ready to say goodnight, even though they would be seeing the band again in less than 24 hours, the cell phone lights came out and the crowd cried for more. McCracken and the band obliged, and their encore of throat-ripping Rock loveliness came screeching forth in “Choke Me,” one of the original hidden album tracks.
This tour is an experience, a burned memory of reverence to blast the pulsating corpuscles back to where they belong… in the land of The Used. With complementary openers like The New Regime, audiences everywhere will clamour to be a part of something they have loved for the past fifteen years. Each night will no doubt be different, so fans are urged to get out and see this tour before it concludes May 27th and 28th in Los Angeles. All in all, it looks like The Used could give another fifteen more years and no one would bat an eye on that prospect.