The Used are just about done with their 15-year anniversary tour, but not before they make a stop in SoCal.
After a pair of shows in LA on Friday and Saturday night, the Utah natives will wrap up their 3-month journey by taking over the Observatory in Santa Ana for a total of four nights (May 30-31 and June 4-5).
During the first night of every back-to-back set, Bert McCracken and company will perform their self-titled debut album in its entirety. Night two brings the band’s whole sophomore effort, In Love and Death, to the stage, although each night will likely be in store for some surprises as well.
“It’s incredible,” McCracken says of the current tour. “Considering that the band is 50 percent different than it was on those records, it’s a really new look at what those records sound like now. Those records, they were a dose of reality with all the honesty and all the mistakes of just four friends who love music.”
But while that honesty has stayed over the last decade-and-a-half, the Used have changed their style on nearly every record. The group’s most recent release, April’s Live & Acoustic at the Palace, sees the post-hardcore/emo legends of the 2000s go unplugged in a way that feels like the next generation of Nirvana’s famous acoustic performance.
“I think people are really appreciating the honest approach and celebration of music,” McCracken says. “I think what people enjoy about music is that enthusiasm that people put into it. You can tell if someone really cares about the music, and we’ve been lucky enough to have a sustainable career for this long doing what we love to do. Calling it a career is kind of like voodoo in my mind because doing what we love to do everyday doesn’t feel like a career.”
Much like how Cobain put his own spin on Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World,” the Used take on a monster song from an even more legendary artist on their acoustic record in “Imagine.” It’s a fitting tune for a guy like McCracken, who really just wants to see the world get along and come together through music.
“Nerve-wracking – and that’s just an understatement, I guess,” McCracken says of performing Lennon’s biggest solo tune. “We try not to cover it as much as just playing it as it is, because it’s just such an important message that it’s almost punitive. All the nervousness about trying to play John Lennon songs and sing like he sang aside, it’s a really monumental song. I don’t think a lot of people think about the lyrics to that extent. ‘Imagine no possessions?’ That’s a big, big statement.”
While the Used are no strangers to covering classic rock (they did “Under Pressure” with My Chemical Romance over a decade ago), they’re already looking forward to their next steps as a band. After Santa Ana is done living out the records that got so many fans through high school, college, and everything else, the quartet is already working on new material for the next release.
“There’s so much cool stuff ahead,” McCracken says. “We’ve already started writing a ton of music for the new record, and it’s a lot of stuff that I really like. It’s a lot of ‘90s grunge stuff and experimental rock stuff. It’s really theatrical, and I’d say this is the beginning of a brand new book.”
For McCracken, life is a series of new beginnings. Although he still has the emotional rawness and youthful exuberance that won fans over 15 years ago, he’s certainly not the same kid who was famously upset about his lot in life at 4 o’clock in the fucking morning. But if one thing holds true from back in those days, it’s still that the singer is in disbelief over just how many people enjoy the sound of his voice.
“It’s unbelievable that we still get to do this and see so many smiles,” McCracken says. “It’s humbling, and hopefully this is the beginning of another 15 great years.”