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Timothy Finn blogs about the Kansas City music scene

Sevendust at the Midland: A raucous ‘family reunion’

04/25/2014 7:29 AM

04/25/2014 1:42 PM

Acoustic excursions by heavy metal bands have been a time-honored tradition ever since Jimmy Page was a member of Led Zeppelin.

For most bands that specialize in heavy electrified sounds, occasional acoustic forays serve as a diverting novelty or as an occasional respite from the usual pandemonium.

At the Midland theater on Thursday, however, the veteran ensemble Sevendust revealed that its softer side is substantially more appealing than its usual ear-splitting bluster. From a purely musical perspective, the acoustic-themed concert indicated that few bands have benefited more from the transformation than Sevendust.

A capacity audience of about 3,000 took advantage of the promotional ticket price of $9.89 at the concert sponsored by 98.9 The Rock.

When Sevendust’s debut album was released in 1997, the band was grouped with nu-metal acts like Limp Bizkit.

Sevendust has since distinguished itself from its contemporaries through its perseverance and the powerful voice of Lajon Witherspoon. Sevendust is touring in support of “Time Travelers & Bonfires,” its 10th studio album. The acoustic project contains new material and fresh arrangements of several favorites.

Sevendust’s idea of mellow is still more aggressive than the most ferocious attacks of many bands. The sporadic crowd-surfing didn’t seem terribly out of place on Thursday.

The configuration accentuated Sevendust’s most important asset and minimized its most glaring weakness. Sevendust’s regular performances in Kansas City are frequently marred by distressingly imprecise renditions of songs from their meticulous studio recordings. Supplemented by keyboardist Kurt Wubbenhorst, the members of the quintet played with finesse on Thursday. The sparser format also provided more space for Witherspoon’s lustrous voice.

The band is originally from Georgia, but Witherspoon lives in the Kansas City area. The event resembled a celebratory homecoming.

“This ain’t no concert,” Witherspoon said. “This is a family reunion.”

A toddler who repeatedly wandered onto the set was among the many well-wishers who stood on either side of the stage.

A polished opening effort by Sidewise, a melodic hard rock band from Overland Park, also enhanced the family atmosphere.

Unwilling to endure a 20-minute intermission that began at 10:30 p.m., a quarter of the audience left before Sevendust performed six songs including a moving cover of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt” and a riotous version of the band’s signature “Black.” Fans who left early missed one of the most vital portions of the area’s most fulfilling Sevendust concert in years.

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