The concert by the Used on Tuesday night at the Midland theater was a rock ’n’ roll version of a public service announcement about drug abuse. An audience of about 500 people heard Bert McCracken, the band’s charismatic frontman, speak at length about his struggles with illicit substances.
As the quartet played the entirety of its first album, McCracken confessed that “a lot of these songs are about drugs.” The Used’s self-titled 2002 release is one of the masterworks of the screamo movement. An apoplectic collision of punk and metal punctuated by pained screams, the album is 47 abrasive minutes of spastic convulsions and exposed nerves.
The band from Utah will play its sophomore album, “In Love and Death,” Wednesday night at the venue as part of its 15th anniversary tour.
McCracken introduced “Say Days Ago,” a song “about crystal meth,” by recalling that “the first night I did meth I felt like Superman. … 18 or 19 years later, I still don’t know how to sleep.” He added that “it was not marijuana that led to me shooting heroin.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The vocalist’s high-profile capers have captivated fans of the Used and viewers of the reality TV program “The Osbournes.” Ozzy Osbourne’s wife, Sharon, disapproved of her daughter’s relationship with McCracken, decrying Kelly’s predilection for “young, smelly boys.”
While McCracken has matured since the show ended in 2005, he still displayed a few bad-boy traits. He spewed water on fans and (presumably) joked that “from the bottom of my heart, everyone in here can kiss my … ass.” Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a hammer-and-sickle symbol, he lamented “years and years and years of fake elections” in the United States.
Supplemented by backing tracks on selections including “Greener with the Scenery,” the quartet performed remarkably precise recreations of the album’s 13 tracks. McCracken sang the phrase “I’m alive” with a sense of astonished surprise on “Maybe Memories.” Renditions of the relatively tranquil “Blue and Yellow” and “On My Own” provided momentary respite from the more corrosive selections.
While the Used’s performance lasted just 70 minutes, it seemed much longer. The band’s cathartic songs are exhausting. McCracken said that “we hear lots of stories about how these first two records saved a lot of lives.” Even if no deaths were averted on Tuesday, the Used’s brief but persuasive show offered a life-affirming experience.
Bill Brownlee: @happyinbag
Maybe Memories; The Taste of Ink; Bulimic; Say Days Ago; Poetic Tragedy; Buried Myself Alive; A Box Full of Sharp Objects; Blue and Yellow; Greener with the Scenery; Noise and Kisses; On My Own; Pieces Mended; Choke Me.