Fred Morledge / Kabik Photo Group
Monday, May 30, 2016 | 7:04 p.m.
A gallery of mannequins and cemetery of tombstones adorned the back of the stage during a pair of local concerts Tuesday and Wednesday nights by The Used, as if the Utah band needed any more bodies watching.
The Used drew capacity crowds both shows at Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas in the Linq Promenade as it celebrated its 15th anniversary. Those type of throngs had become uncommon for the band during a middling last decade, but they returned with the promise of hearing The Used play its first two albums in their entirety on consecutive nights.
And for a band that espoused political anarchism on its latest record, The Used sure thrived off order. Blasting straight through its 2002 self-titled effort and 2004’s “In Love And Death” — two albums that established The Used among the leaders of the post-hardcore scene at the time — brought out the band’s strongest Las Vegas performances in years.
That’s not to say the shows were flawless. The festivities were somewhat hollow with only half of the lineup that played on the albums, vocalist Bert McCracken and bassist Jeph Howard, still intact.
Guitarist Quinn Allman exited the band last year, joining drummer Branden Steineckert, who’s been gone since 2006, as departed original members. Steineckert’s caustic drumming had as much to do with The Used’s initial breakthrough as McCracken’s candid lyricism and Howard’s songwriting chops.
Current drummer Dan Whitesides is talented in his own right and has assimilated effectively into the role over the last decade, but his style isn’t the same. Never was that more evident than playing through 25 songs Steineckert molded.
Although it remains to be seen how The Used’s first recorded material without Allman turns out, new guitarist Justin Shekoski signaled no drop-off live and even provided the band with a lift. Shekoski sounded every bit as polished and engaged as Allman.
The immeasurably tougher task came on the first night, partly because “The Used” is an immeasurably better album — an opinion backed by Tuesday’s show selling out faster.
Performing songs from that release took such a toll during initial supporting tours that McCracken would vomit on stage every show and eventually developed a painful nodule on his vocal chords that’s left him unable to scream ever since. So re-creating the intensity wouldn’t be easy.
Bless The Used for trying and at least not failing. The songs were proficiently executed from an instrumental standpoint, but the screaming fits originally laced throughout the album made for awkward moments. Howard tried his best to substitute in his own harsh vocals, but they were a PG-version at best of McCracken’s once blood-curdling squawks.
McCracken can sing better than ever, though, as demonstrated when the band played the more pop-tinged “In Love and Death” on night two. And in a surprise, the second night was more memorable.
McCracken’s stage ramblings carried more purpose, as he shared harrowing insight into inspirations for the songs off the second album — including heroin addiction and the overdose death of an ex-girlfriend.
While oft-played singles got the biggest reaction on the first night — particularly “The Taste of Ink” and “A Box Full of Sharp Objects — deep cuts “Sound Effects and Overdramatics” and “Hard To Say” were among the most well-received on the second.
The New Regime opened both shows. If there was a technically transcendent performance on the bill, it came from music veteran Ilan Rubin’s solo project.
Rubin has drummed for what seems like half of the big-sized bands in existence — including Nine Inch Nails, Angels & Airwaves and Paramore currently — but the 27-year-old prodigy showed why he’s regarded as a multi-instrumentalist.
Leading his own band, Rubin ripped through the best series of guitar solos on back-to-back nights locally since Slash reunited with Guns ’N Roses at T-Mobile Arena last month. Rubin’s bluesy riffs combined with alternative rock structures and industrial forays to give The New Regime an experimental sound.
“There are a million bands that could have fit better for this tour,” Rubin said before The New Regime’s final song on the second night. “But we’re very thankful to The Used for bringing us out.”
The Used didn’t make many missteps on this tour, including virtually none Wednesday night. McCracken declared the concert “almost my favorite show on the tour” upon reappearing for an encore, and the grin he couldn’t conceal made it believable.
The Used then launched into “Pretty Handsome Awkward,” the only song performed that wasn’t off the first two albums, and a massive circle pit McCracken had tried to force for two days swelled naturally. Everyone was so enlivened that it was halfway expected something would emerge out from underneath the tombstones.
Alas, there was no resurrection, leaving the stage props as the only stationary objects in sight.
Case Keefer is the Las Vegas Sun’s assistant sports editor and an avid music fan.