A packed house restlessly awaited the show, but they woke up slowly once the show began. The crowd was clearly there for The Used, from the young kids in tight skinny jeans to the 30-somethings who knew every word to every song. But before The Used began their set, the crowd had a pleasant surprise. The New Regime brought a refreshing change to the concept of “opening band”.
Looking like “Every-man”, the trio took the stage with a simple set and a steady energy. Visiting Baltimore on the heels of a South by Southwest appearance, the band brought a calm, comfortable vibe with them—they were no strangers to a stage. San Diego veteran Ilan Rubin, best known for his work in Nine Inch Nails, contributed to write, perform and sing, weaving a classic rock sound throughout a modern band. Drummer Hayden Scott brought the electronic sound into the mix with a Dub-Step type sound pounding behind an earnest guitar. Ilan and bassist Daniel Rubin sang a tight harmony, their voices well blended and complimentary. Bass and guitar were well matched as well, producing a much larger sound than is usually expected from a three-piece band.
What followed next was a dreamy, psychedelic San Francisco-in-the-70’s vibe that would be better performed for a group of California hippies than a crowd of Used fans—but the fans liked it anyway. An interesting guitar riff ended in a long, echoing note that faded as Rubin shouted “You ready for something heavier?” The crowd clapped, but not to Rubin’s satisfaction. “Now what am I supposed to do with that response?” The crowd screamed. “See I knew this crowd could handle it!” he laughed, and launched into another blend of modern sound backed by a 70’s classic rock groove that brought to mind Led Zeppelin and Queen. Though not as heavy as anticipated, it was just right and the crowd responded well.
The next song started with a picking sound that was reminiscent of “O Brother, Where Art Thou”, but the cymbals then crashed right into a driving rock song. Heads bobbed as the rocking sound seemed to come from six or eight performers rather than the three unassuming members on the stage. Rubin shredded the guitar, putting his body into it, playing old-school rock and roll. He played sounds that were probably more familiar to the Used fans’ parents, but the crowd loved it and it struck a nerve. Planting his feet, Daniel kept perfect pace with drummer Hayden Scott making the rapid tight rhythm look effortless. Rubin raced through every fret on the guitar, breaking into a Queen-inspired jam but clearly making it his own. The classic Zeppelin-Queen influence was prominent and clearly evident, but Rubin ENHANCED the old-fashioned sounds rather than copying them. He blended new influences into old, and the effect was fascinating. As he wound down to close the song, the crowd was his, and the room was fully satisfied. They had seen a good show, without pretense or flashy gimmicks—just good, innovative rock and roll.
Following The New Regime, The Used immediately commanded the attention of the crowd. Red spotlights lit up nearly-naked manikins, and the completely packed crowd bristled with anticipation. As the band took the stage, the roar rose to deafening. Yes, this was a Used crowd for sure.
Jumping with controlled energy, singer Bert McCraken made it clear that this concert was a joint effort. The crowd was expected to sing along, and that they did. Nearly every fan knew every word of every song. The entire set was comprised of The Used providing the foundation within which the audience performed. McCraken addressed the crowd, saying “after touring for 17 years, I’ve seen it with my own eyes—music really does change people’s lives and the world we live in. I challenge every one of you to be your fucking selves!” The crowd screamed, clapping frenetically along with him as he launched into The Case of Ink, singing along about savoring every moment of it all.
Fabric hung from the microphone stand “in solidarity for Palestinian people”, as McCraken spoke of over 15 years of The Used, which is “a big fucking deal!” The crowd belonged to him before he even stepped off the tour bus that evening. Calling several times for a circle pit, he tried to wind up the audience but they focused on giving him back every single word he sang, fingers pointing forward, arms raised, passionately throwing themselves into each song. Behind him, drummer Dan Whitesides sat in his own world, playing as if he were alone on stage. The band then slowed down into a sexy groove for “Waste Some Time With You”, which led into an acapella sing along ending.
The Used owned the night and the crowd proudly performed right along with them, but that was a given. When The Used comes to Baltimore, Baltimore gives back. Dependable, sturdy, and exciting, the show went as planned. But the big surprise was the modern blend of classic rock from The New Regime, which is worth another look. All in all, it was a great show, and another testament to the fact that Rams Head Live is filling the city with great sounds from greatest local and national artists, keeping the music scene alive and well.