Trapt’s rock not enough to set you free

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Photo Credit: Bryce Fraser/American River Current
Trapt’s Chris Brown entertains a sold-out crowd

Mark Lewis, Arcurrent
January 30, 2012

 markblewis@markblewis.net

Trapt, the veteran hard-rock band from Los Gatos, returned to The Boardwalk (Orangevale’s sole intimate venue for live music enthusiasts) to deliver a pulse pounding 80-minute set to a capacity crowd of just more than 450 people on Jan. 26.

The group, consisting of lead singer Chris Brown, guitarist Robb Torres, bassist Peter Charell and drummer Aaron “Monty” Montgomery, performed the first of three consecutive Northern California shows after an inexplicably long hiatus that made me question whether R. Kelly wasn’t the only performer to be “trapped in a closet.”

Trapt first gave the Bay Area music scene a shot of adrenaline in 2003 when they released their self-titled debut album through Warner Bros. The album went multi-platinum and spawned four singles including the smash hit “Headstrong.”

The success of their debut album catapulted Trapt into the modern rock hemisphere. They headlined tours alongside Papa Roach and Mötley Crüe only to then release a series of albums over the past seven years that were trashed by music critics, absent from rock radio and basically ignored by all but their most hardcore fans.

After failing to regenerate their fan base with the release of 2010’s “No Apologies,” Trapt parted ways with both their record label and long-time management group. Last year’s unconventionally released single “Bring It” was a botched attempt by the band to assert their musical independence through releasing another sub-par single that was futile in its attempt to crack the Billboard charts.

Failed albums and a demotion into hard-rock obscurity didn’t stop a long, snaking line of concert-goers from showing up to welcome the band back to Sacramento after a nearly three-year absence.

The last time I saw Trapt live in concert was in 2006 when they headlined San Jose’s “Music in the Park” – a free-to-the-public summer concert series. Six years later I joined fans who shelled out $15 a head in hopes of experiencing a slice of modern rock nostalgia.

At 10:45 p.m. (more than three and a half hours after the doors had opened), Trapt took the stage where they remained until slightly past midnight. Clad from head to toe in leather, Brown launched the evening’s set with the aforementioned “Bring It.”

For a hard-rock band, Brown brings an incredibly melodic voice that when not jettisoned into screamo mode is on par with Bon Jovi or even John Mayer.

I’ll be the first to admit that small venues such as “The Boardwalk” can be hard to play for bands such as Trapt due to a mix of noise reverberation and speakers throttled to maximum volume. It’s a disservice to the band’s underappreciated songs “End of My Rope” and “Waiting,” which followed their opener.

After playing their first five frenetically, Trapt performed a surprisingly realized cover of Depeche Mode’s classic “Policy of Truth.” Brown is not a particularly unique performer though he does supplement songs with grandiose hand gestures and a better-than-average command of the stage (though for the first 30 minutes I was persistently annoyed at how Brown used the feedback amplifier as a foot stool).

Brown scored a huge W in the evening’s win-loss column when he strapped on a guitar and launched into “Echo” – a beautiful song in which he lyrically promises listeners that he’ll “run away with them by his side.” “These Walls,” one of Trapt’s most popular songs, ended with Brown confessing on the band’s behalf that “You make us feel so f***ing good.” Thankfully the soft-spoken Brown kept the banter in between songs to a minimum.

With the audience-derived momentum building, Trapt launched into the lyrically spectacular “Black Rose,” which they performed gracefully (who says grace has no place in rock ‘n’ roll?). If “Black Rose” was the night’s show-stopper, then unfortunately the anything-but-infectious track “Contagious” would have to be the show-staller.

Just to clarify, the band did not stall while performing the song but the heads and bodies comprising the crowd certainly did. “Sound Off,” the title track to their third album, would have worked better as a command to the audio engineers to mute the volume rather than to be included in the set.

Trapt’s performance was like the seesaw you used to play on at the park. Just when your feet hit the ground and you think the ride is over – you thrust your legs back into the ground and launch yourself up as high as you can go. That thrust immediately began with the guitar lick intro to “Headstrong.”

I dare say that after almost nine years of “Headstrong” being a staple on what’s left of modern rock radio – it’s really not a great song! In this day and age of music, a hit is a hit is a hit, and people just continue to devour that song. The closing line of the track says it best as far as I’m concerned – “This is not where you belllloonng.”

As the clock struck midnight, Brown blew a kiss to the crowd and thanked them before he launched into the final song of the evening. I wouldn’t classify myself as a “save the best for last” kind of guy, although ending the evening with “Still Frame” lends credence to that saying.

“Still Frame” is a superior song sung by a good band with a song catalogue that simply isn’t great. The concert was a blast from the past perhaps but certainly not anything that will set Trapt (or myself) free.

TRAPT

Standout songs: “Still Frame,” “Echo,” “Black Rose” and “These Walls.”

My final verdict: Loved it? Loathed it? Missed the Mark? Missed the Mark!

American River students were you there? We want to hear from you! E-mail us with comments, memorable moments and photos at current@arc.losrios.edu. As always keep us in check and make sure our assessments are right on the “Mark.”

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