Nestled among the sound system at West Hollywood’s House of Blues Tuesday night was a famous band who took the stage among whoops and hollers from the crowd of a few hundred. With dim lighting and a few concertgoers even sitting on couches just a few feet away from the performers, singing along, one would never guess that this was a rock concert. There are no flashing lights, no smashing guitars.
But that, of course, has never been 3 Doors Down’s style. Instead, after playing sold-out shows to thousands of fans, charting their first single on the top three of the Billboard Hot 100 and having their debut album certified 6x platinum in the United States, 3 Doors Down announced their “Songs From the Basement” tour, which kicked off Jan. 10 and feels exactly how it sounds — like watching an act that has yet to be discovered.
The band played a 75-minute set, running a little late and ranging from some of their bigger hits such as “Let Me Go” to lesser-known tracks such as “Away From the Sun,” and closing with — no surprise here — “Kryptonite,” the song that propelled them to stardom in early 2000.
Because several of the songs on the set list had never been played live before, it was unlike any performance the band had put on to date. Before playing one particular tune, lead singer Brad Arnold asked that the audience to forgive him if he made a mistake, as he hadn’t performed it in years — of course, he made no mistakes, but just saying that made it feel as if he was opening a curtain, allowing the audience to peek at something that no one had ever seen before.
A fan looking for a replay of the group’s greatest hits might have left disappointed — bored, even. But it’s the fan seeking to grow closer to the music they already love in a new way who Arnold speaks to when he says, “God Bless you, my friends,” over and over again after every track.
Another big takeaway was the influence of the band’s Southern origins on the evolution of their sound. Having seemingly straddled the line between rock and mainstream for the past decade and a half, who knew they were from Escatawpa, Miss.?
But more than the confession that he used to drive a tractor, it was Arnold’s deep, drawn-out twang — surfacing when he hit the higher notes more so than in the band’s earlier days — that gave away his country roots. The vocals were rich and resonant — probably the highlight of the show — filling up the venue and bouncing off the walls like smoke in a Prohibition-era cigar lounge.
Though the performance was advertised as “unplugged,” and the band replaced their electric guitars with acoustic ones, it still felt very rock ‘n’ roll, and power and volume were not sacrificed for the clarity of the lyrics or intricacy of the notes. The only noticable adaptations appeared in songs such as “Kryptonite,” where the chorus asked for yelling, but instead, Arnold delivered a toned-down version, rattling the pitch of his voice in and out to demonstrate more of a range than the song originally provides for.
It might have been Southern hospitality coming out, but Arnold spoke comfortably and casually with the crowd before each song, not so much bantering with his fellow musicians, who barely spoke, but sharing his secret recipe of melted gummy bears in hot water that soothes his throat, or the story of a 16-year-old boy who started crying at a festival they played in Europe because he was so moved by a song.
It was these anecdotes, however tangential, that allowed attendees to view the band as more than just a late ’90s/early millennium one-hit wonder searching for a comeback. Though the audience might have suggested otherwise — composed of middle-aged couples overzealously lip-synching like it was their patriotic duty — it’s clear that this band isn’t concerned with reliving the past. All they want is to play music and share that love of music with the rest of the world — and prove that they’re grateful for every second of it.
3 Doors Down is set to perform in Anaheim on Jan. 20.