It’s a Sunday night and Saving Abel is hosting an all-ages show free to military, with cheap tickets for the remainder of the crowd. Held in Des Moines, Iowa’s downtown at Wooly’s, named because it was once a Woolworth store, the venue has high ceilings extending close to 20 feet and retained architectural features including cast iron columns and original plaster walls. This concert is also an opportunity for the band to promote their latest album, Bringing Down the Giant, released in mid-July.
The band, consisting of Jason Null (guitar/backing vocals), Scott Bartlett (guitar/backing vocals), Eric Taylor (bass/backing vocals) and Michael McManus (drums), walks onto the stage about 8:30 PM. Frontman Jared Weeks follows and casually raises a glass to the crowd. Weeks is dressed in a white t-shirt with a grey vest over it; a cross necklace rests on his chest. The other band members are dressed in jeans and t-shirts. Their relaxed appearance and attitude is apparent immediately. These are simple, southern boys who just like to rock.
Saving Abel opens the show with Bringing Down the Giant, the title track from the newest record. Week’s voice is raspy, gritty and has that southern soul-filled sound to it. After only the first few songs, the entire band is dripping with sweat and needs to take a break to wipe off the perspiration. Weeks thanks the crowd for putting rock n’ roll in their lives.
Halfway through the set the band pulls out the stools and acoustic guitars. They sit down and Weeks talks about growing up in Mississippi and admits to being a redneck. He shares how he grew up sitting on the front porch playing music with his neighbors, drinking Jack Daniels. Then the band brings us back to their southern rock roots, what obviously influenced their music, by performing an acoustic version of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man. The band ends the acoustic set with a stripped down version of The Sex is Good.
Before performing Drowning (Face Down), a song from the band’s first album Saving Abel, Weeks talks about growing up hearing the phrase “no matter how many times you get knocked down you have to get back up.” The frontman recounts his days of working at Wal-Mart, but he’s not bitter. He doesn’t hate Wal-Mart, he just loves rock n’ roll a whole helluva lot more.
Weeks mentions the troops and his love for his freedom several times between songs. He reminds the crowd their ability to be at a show on a Sunday night, drinking is entirely attributed to the troops. Before singing 18 Days, another song from the Saving Abel album which has become associated with the military and the amount of leave time they get to be home with their families, Weeks dedicates the song to all the men and women in uniform and asks the crowd to sing along in honor of the red, white and blue.
Throughout the show it’s evident every song is a collaborative effort. There is no star; they are a team. Even when Weeks is singing, Null, Bartlett and Taylor, are providing backing vocals. It gives their sound cohesiveness and great depth.
Saving Abel ends the show with Addicted, the top single from their first album which by far receives the most radio play. This song put Saving Abel on the map, and instead of resenting the fact they have to keep playing it to entertain the crowd, they put all their energy into it. The band seems to enjoy and even embrace the fact this song made a name for them. It feels like they are saying we hope you like the rest of our our songs, but we know you really came to hear this one so we’re gonna bring it. And there isn’t a person in the place that doesn’t know all the words, has their hands in the air or is dancing along to the tune. It’s a great way to end the show and leave the crowd on an adrenaline high.