Seether, a South African rock band heavily indebted to Nirvana, made its second Kansas City headlining appearance of 2015 at the Midland theater on Wednesday.
More than 1,500 fans who embrace Nirvana’s rage but recoil from the arty weirdness of the defunct band’s late Kurt Cobain attended the concert. By replacing Nirvana’s brains with additional brawn, Seether became one of the most successful post-grunge rock bands of the last 15 years.
Seether doesn’t attempt to hide its foundation in Nirvana’s sound. A faithful cover of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” provided some of the most enthralling moments of Wednesday’s concert.
But the heartfelt tribute was impaired by a bizarre sound mix.
The guitar and vocals of Shaun Morgan are the central elements of Seether’s approach, but both were often overwhelmed by Dale Stewart’s bass and John Humphrey’s drums. The resulting sound field resembled an inflexible hip-hop producer’s idea of impeccable rock tonality.
Morgan’s unaccompanied guitar sketches that served as bridges between songs were clearly audible. As soon as the bass and drums kicked in, however, Morgan’s essential contributions were buried.
“Words as Weapons” was among the songs that were difficult to recognize during Seether’s 80-minute outing.
“Broken” was the only selection that was entirely successful. Performed as duet by Morgan and a supplemental guitarist, the doleful ballad provided a respite from the overbearing rhythm section.
Seether’s songs merit better treatment. The band’s music may be diluted Nirvana, but it’s not doltish. The message of “Fine Again,” a powerful song about a struggle with substance abuse, was lost in the mix.
Saint Asonia was as impressive as Seether was disappointing.
The freshly assembled band consists of accomplished hard rock veterans including Adam Gontier, the former vocalist of Three Days Grace, and Mike Mushok, the lead guitarist of Staind.
The quartet’s collective experience was apparent as they performed a pleasing mix of recent compositions and enthusiastic versions of favorites by Staind and Three Days Grace in a polished 45-minute set. Saint Asonia is almost certainly the favorite new band of much of the audience.
Opening act Within Reason wasn’t as successful.
The quartet from Birmingham, Ala., was indistinguishable from the multitude of melodic hard rock contenders that aspire to become the next Papa Roach.
Unlike Seether and Saint Asonia, Within Reason has yet to perfect the subtle craft of musical recycling.