He looks gruff, ready to follow the scooting of a barstool into the melee of a brawl. But Aaron Lewis’ closely shaved head, badass demeanor and long history fronting angst-rock band Staind masks a sensitive side: one that has been revealed in tiny increments since he first yelled his way into platinum sales and rock arenas.
Lewis’ career has taken a curious turn, though not one unexplored in recent years by ‘90s alt-radio darlings hoping to prolong their longevity as moneymakers while still finding an audience beyond the Greatest Hits package circuit. Like folk maven Jewel and earnest anthem rocker Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish before him, Lewis has donned a ten-gallon hat and gone all calculated country.
If it seems an incongruous choice, well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Even Lewis seems unsure of whether he wants to make the switch himself. Sure, his solo debut – the Town Line EP – actually includes an “Entering Nashville” sign on its cover, and its first single, called “Country Boy” (Lewis is from Massachusetts), features country royalty George Jones and Charlie Daniels. And, sure, the collection hit the top of the Billboard Country charts a year ago (and also reached #7 on the Billboard 200), so it’s obviously paying off for him. But he’s also hedging his bets, keeping Staind alive and embarking on a solo acoustic tour that promises to hit all the highwater marks in his career, both fronting a band and on his own.
That tour hits Kingston this Saturday, March 17, and the press release claims that Lewis will take requests – presumably within reason – from the audience. Given his success since adding a bit of twang to his repertoire, it seems likely that if there’s a division among Lewis’ fanbase, it could be realized in those moments from the crowd, as songs on both sides of the fence are requested. Also, anticipate the inevitable shouts for “Freebird,” because there’s always someone.
Aaron Lewis performs “Solo & Acoustic” at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) on Saturday, March 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $44 for adults and $39 for members, and are available online and at the box offices at both UPAC and the Bardavon. For more information, visit www.upac.org and https://aaronlewismusic.com.