SAN FRANCISCO — The line outside the Regency Ballroom snaked through the neighborhood for blocks. Surely this Saturday crowd was lined-up to see some up-and-coming indie buzz band or electronic pop band or DJ. In fact, fans lined up to see nu-metal survivors Papa Roach make their return to the Bay Area. The Vacaville hard rockers made their anticipated stop at the Regency as part of their intimate Goin’ Back To Cali club tour, a warm-up for the extended national tour in support of their latest release, Who Do You Trust?
Papa Roach holds a unique space within the musical landscape. The band rose to prominence behind the rap-rock era of the early 2000s with a string of megahits from its debut, Infest. As the nu-metal craze waned, Papa Roach pressed on, surviving as the face of modern rock changed through the years. The band has its share detractors (even within the rock circles of the time) going back to its earliest days. But with each passing album release a few more of those voices quieted. Frontman Jacoby Shaddix experienced his share of personal ups and downs, but rather tear the band apart it made the band stronger, informing Shaddix’s lyrics about pain, strife and resolve. Nearly 20 years later, the band has staked its place as an early 2000s legacy rock act.
Shaddix and co. wasted no time bringing an immediate energy, opening with “Infest” and one of their biggest hits in “Last Resort.” They then launched into the new groove of “Who Do You Trust?” Papa Roach’s latest LP sees the band embracing a far more melodious and pop-influenced side, sandwiched between beefy classic rock guitar riffs. The combination of the two translated well live, harnessing both grove and power.
The band kept up the energy, knocking out some of its biggest hits early on in the set, continuing with the trifecta of “Crooked Teeth,” “Getting Away With Murder” and “Hollywood Whore.” Shaddix dedicated power ballad “Forever” to his wife of 21 years, leading the crowd in the chorus: “Because days come and go, but my feelings for you are forever.”
The rowdy Regency crowd was then treated to the Papa Roach live staple, the “wall of death,” during tempo-bending rocker “Traumatic.” For the uninitiated, the wall separates the audience in half during the quieter, building bridge before unleashing them at each other in a frenzy when the chorus kicks in. Shaddix then brought out a guest to the stage to finish the song—his son Brixton; who may have been the biggest rock star of the night. Brixton commanded the crowd to get down low before jumping for the final chorus of the song, even lending some backing vocals to his own Papa.
The band rolled through the classic punk tribute “I Suffer Well” before dabbling in a pair of covers: 2Pac’s “California Love” and Blur’s “Song 2.” Shaddix took a moment to bring the lights up, picking out fans in the crowd whom he recognized by name from years gone by. The band mixed in one of its deepest cuts, the reggae-infused “Tightrope,” a “secret track” of the band’s debut. Its lyrical content about gun violence and modern society seem more relevant today than in the Columbine era of which it was originally released.
Shaddix’s focus on his own vocal delivery has paid dividends, matching his unbridled energy with as melodic and confident a tone as he’s ever had. This evolution was no more evident than on the new track “Elevate,” an almost Imagine-Dragons-esque stomper that shifts styles bar-by-bar. The band’s evolution was also noticeable with bassist Tobin Esperance and drummer Tony Palermo providing a tight rhythm section and in guitarist Jerry Horton’s performance. The band added Esperance’s younger brother Anthony as a touring member to round out their sound.
Papa Roach rounded out its main set with another power trio of “Scars,” “Help” and “Born For Greatness,” before returning to close with the rousing “Between Angels and Insects” and “…To Be Loved.”
Santa Cruz hardcore band Coercion opened the show with a tight 35-minute set filled with heavy punk-influenced rock. Frontman Jake Desrochers delivered a solid performance with intense and aggressive vocals. Desrochers, a longtime friend of Papa Roach, also talked fondly of his time growing up with the band.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.