Make America Rock Again, the tour that began last year and borrowed its name from the trump (I refuse to capitalize his name) campaign slogan that promised to “Make America Great Again”, returned this year under the same banner with a different lineup, with the only holdover from last year’s debut being Trapt. The 2017 edition of Make America Rock Again also features Adelitas Way, Sick Puppies, Drowning Pool and Scott Stapp playing the hits he recorded with Creed back in the 90’s and early 2000’s. So, this is effectively a tour full of bands who haven’t really been all that popular over the better part of the last decade. They’ve all had a few hits in the early 2000’s, with the exception of Adelitas Way who broke through with Invincible in 2009, and while all the performers on Make America Rock Again have released albums in the last year or so, the height of their popularity has largely come from early hits at the turn of the century.
That’s pretty sad considering I remember when Trapt and Drowning Pool were at their peak, with Headstrong and Bodies respectively putting each band on the map. Everyone listened to Trapt and Drowning Pool when I was in high school many moons ago, and you weren’t “cool” if you didn’t like them. The opposite held true for Scott Stapp, who at the time fronted Creed, and let’s just say that if you liked Creed, people ragged on you. I was one of those people who liked Creed, so much so that when they broke up and the rest of the band formed Alter Bridge I refused to listen to their music because Myles Kennedy was not Scott Stapp, and as you’ll read later, Stapp’s current backing band is not Creed.
Let’s get to the good stuff, shall we? Adelitas Way kicked off a night on which the theme was short sets, playing 5 or 6 songs (we can’t confirm their setlist at this time) and not including Invincible, which was a disappointment because it’s really their only song I actually know well. Their brief set did include Bad Reputation, Ready For War, Notorious, Criticize and Sick and possibly one more that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s difficult to judge a band’s live performance from so few songs, and I really felt like the show could have started an hour earlier to give each band another 2-3 songs rather than trying to force things and still have the night go on until midnight anyway, but 5 songs isn’t much to go by when trying to write something like this. I’d like to see Adelitas Way play a full set. They weren’t bad, but I’d really like to hear more from them including the song that put them on the map.
Up next was Trapt who had time for 7 songs and whose music I am much more familiar with, having been a fan from their early days when Headstrong was on the old K-Rock every hour. Make America Rock Again was my first time seeing them, and I don’t know why I had never gone to see them before, but I should have. Getting to hear most of my favorite Trapt songs in a short set is what a tour like this is about and what I wish every band would do when they have a limited amount of time on stage. Still Frame, Who’s Going Home With You Tonight?, Echo, Contagious, and Headstrong were all included in the band’s set along with Stand Up and Waiting, and that’s how you put together a set list. The only two songs I wish they had included are Sound Off and These Walls, but otherwise, I have zero complaints. If not for Sick Puppies, Trapt might have stolen the show with their kick ass set and now I want to see them again and again.
Sick Puppies got their turn third, and to be fair they probably should have been in Drowning Pool’s slot right before Scott Stapp because they’re probably the most popular popular band on this tour right now, having done their own small headline run along with opening for The Struts last winter, and they’re probably also the most entertaining performers on Make America Rock Again with bassist Emma Anzai being literally everywhere on stage and just being an absolute blast to watch. Sick Puppies also got enough time for 7 songs and made the most of their time with War, Where Do I Begin, Riptide, Odd One, Riptide, Black & Blue and You’re Going Down. That’s not a bad set at all, but I’ve seen them play basically the same set a couple times now and I’d really like to get to see them play longer, but this is what they’re doing these days despite being arguably the most currently-relevant artist on this tour.
Drowning Pool would go next and they would get nine songs, the most so far by any of the artists on this lineup and apparently more than the tour’s headliner. I admit I haven’t kept up on Drowning Pool much since original vocalist Dave Williams died 15 years ago (how has it been that long already?) and despite the rumors that the band were on their third singer after playing a gig with a guy named Joey Duenas, Jasen Moreno is still fronting the band and still kicking ass. As I mentioned, Drowning Pool got 9 songs, more than any other on the lineup, and used it to play a bunch of tunes I really don’t know, sadly. Aside from By The Blood, which my former editor at another magazine shot the promo photos for, and Bodies, which everyone knows by heart at this point, the group played Sinner, Think, Step Up, We Are the Devil, Feel Like I Do, Sermon and Tear Away. It’s great to see that Jasen Moreno is still in the band, he’s been with them way too long to be replaced and most people who know the band know Moreno as the face of the group. Their popularity isn’t what it was years ago, but it probably should be after seeing them live.
Ah, the headliner, Scott Stapp. This brought back so many memories. As I mentioned at the top, I grew up a Creed fan, and I saw them in 2009 on their reunion/Full Circle tour, but this wasn’t Creed. This was Scott Stapp with his own backing band playing Creed songs, and I had no idea how this was going to sound coming into the show. Once I saw the extra guitarist, I knew Stapp was trying to make up for the obvious absence of Mark Tremonti, and while his own tunes might sound good with two guitarists, Creed songs just aren’t the same. Stapp still has the voice he had 20 years ago, but something was obviously missing on all the Creed tunes. There’s never going to be any replacing Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips, hard as Stapp might have tried with the extra guitarist.
Stapp himself has still got it, and he showed it on the hold hits like Higher, With Arms Wide Open, One Last Breath and My Sacrifice. Stapp and his band also played Bullets, Are You Aready?, My Own Prison and What If along with one of his own new tunes, Slow Suicide. The guy’s still got the voice, but I really wish him and the rest of the guys from Creed would bury the hatchet and get back together for a tour because no Creed song will ever sound the same to me without Tremonti, Marshall and Phillips behind him. That’s not to say the performance was bad, it wasn’t. It was just different, and Stapp absolutely killed it like he has for years, but those guys behind him are not the guys I grew up listening to Stapp sing over. Maybe I’m holding onto nostalgia and hoping Stapp would have been able to find lightning in a bottle twice instead of embracing what he’s doing these days, I don’t really know. What I do know is Scott Stapp can still sing, still has a ton of energy on stage and still puts on a solid performance.
Make America Rock Again did a fine job of making Huntington rock, and that’s not easy. There’s nothing to do in that town besides get drunk, eat gyro and listen to music. Not all of it is good, but this tour is definitely solid. Make America Rock Again brought back a lot of memories and took me back to the good ol’ days when I didn’t have a care in the world and music was everything. I’ll take that any day. Check out the gallery below.