by Justin Trudell
Before The Used took the stage in front of a sold out St. Andrew’s Hall crowd, a playlist of early 2000’s dance bops filled the air. Now, these playlists are picked out by the band to get the crowd in the mood for what they’re about to hear – almost like an additional opening act. Tracks included Brittney, Christina, and lots of boy bands. It was a clear indication of what The Used think they are: an emo band from the turn of the millennium whose best days are behind them. So, they wanted to lay the nostalgia on thick and resonate with a fanbase who want to be reminded of the time when they first discovered The Used. But, based on how little the crowd was into the playlist, that’s not the case.
Most of the tracks from The Used are highly emotional, that’s a given. However, it’s not nostalgia that brings their fans back, it’s because these guys are good. The main reason I was turned off by The Used before, was based on a “15 Year Anniversary Tour” they did for one of their albums a few years back. Personally, I HATE when bands do any anniversary tours for an album, short of 25 years. It may as well be called “I’m not feeling creative and my divorce really fucked me, so I need some cash to pay the lawyers” tour. If after only 15 years you, as a band, have run out of new material, you should probably just break up and take on new projects. Again, this is a personal feeling of mine, and I’m sure not everyone feels the same. Starting from that angle and witnessing The Used live for the first time ever, it made me wonder why they wouldn’t have been making new music this whole time.
Front man Bert McCracken sounded fantastic. His voice seemed as strong as ever, even during the particularly screamy sections of songs. He has a great presence – he was charming and seemed genuinely appreciative of the strong showing of the Detroit fanbase. Even unleashing one of the best Dad jokes I’ve ever heard: “Did you guys hear Aladdin has to stop competing in magic carpet races? He tested positive for performance enhancing rugs.” Which was met with as many grinning eye rolls as you’d expect. McCracken had loads of banter that I found enjoyable, even playing conductor for the crowd at one point. Raising his arms to get them to scream, lowering them to quiet the roars. It was a much more enjoyable and fun night than I expected.
I’ve never been much of an emo music guy, because it all sounded so depressing. Despite that expectation, the night had an incredibly positive vibe. Along with the banter and jokes mentioned above, there was lots of words of encouragement from McCracken. Telling everyone, “2020 is the year you can make your dreams come true. Walk out of here knowing you can do it. Like getting shot in the chest with a positivity bullet. It’s your year, I promise you that. I’ve set some goals, and I smashed ‘em. You can, too.”
Which brings me to this: evolve, my man. McCracken and The Used have connected to so many people, and it’s not because they discovered you in the early 2000’s, it’s because of their message, their perspective and how they’re able to translate that into memorable songs. How they’ve been able to turn emotional pain into a positive message. Don’t be afraid to explore your journey in life the same way your fans have. Change your sound, see what you can do creatively, even if it’s completely different. There’s a ton of people who are fans, not because of nostalgia, but because of a connection.
It made me incredibly happy to hear they have a new album coming out in April, Heartwork. I really hope it’s something new and interesting that explores a different aspect of life as they’ve grown and changed, because their fans have done that and I’m sure they’d enjoy hearing about your journey as well.