3 doors down 10 years on

3 doors down. from left: todd harrell, chris henderson, greg upchurch, matt roberts and brad arnold.

In the wake of the memorials and remembrances surrounding the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we offer this postscript.

Throughout the days following the attacks, concert events – from the smallest club shows to the biggest arena performances – were understandably called off as Americans mourned and regrouped. But some acts held tough, weighed their options and decided to move on, believing the best continuance of life-as-normal that could be summoned under the circumstances was the course to pursue.

Such was the call of the Mississippi rock troupe 3 Doors Down. Three days after the attacks, the band played Rupp Arena as scheduled. The sense of hope and healing at the performance was obvious – whether it came from the music itself or simply from the sight of thousands of people gathering for some kind of diversion from the week’s horrific events.

“It was really surreal for us,” said 3 Doors Down guitarist Chris Henderson, who was part of that 2001 Rupp performance. He will return to the arena with the band on Saturday.

“On 9/11 itself, we were in York, PA. That day, when all that happened and America went into shock, we were trying to decide whether or not we were going to cancel our tour. And we were watching the TV when the President came on and said to go about your business, to go about life and that we were going to bounce back from this.

“So we played that night in York to a downsized crowd, understandably. But we played and the crowd was amazing. The next night was in Virginia Beach, a big military town. Rupp was after that. Following these shows, I don’t think anyone particularly cared anymore. We were just moving on and everyone was moving on with us. In America, that’s what we do. We bounce back from tragedy and become stronger than we were before.”

At the time, 3 Doors Down was a new but already immensely proven and popular act. While it was versed in the ways of pure pop design, the band was armed with a rugged guitar sound and a fearsome howl from vocalist Brad Arnold that allowed it to hold tough with the many other radio-friendly post-grunge bands of the days. The big introduction came by way of two suitably strident singles full of melodic guitar crunch, Kryptonite and Loser. The 2000 debut album those songs came from, The Better Life, would go on to sell over 6 million copies.

While subsequent albums didn’t fully match those numbers, each recording sold briskly enough to maintain 3 Doors Down’s presence as a top-drawing concert attraction and a top-charting recording act.

The proof: 2002’s Away from the Sun went quadruple platinum and scored three more No. 1 hits (Dangerous Game, Dead Love and Wasted Me). 2005’s Seventeen Days and 2008’s 3 Doors Down both debuted on the Billboard album charts at No 1. The recent Time of My Life topped the iTunes album chart upon its release in July.

“We seem to be gathering new fans as we go,” Henderson said. “Some of the people were practically kids when they were listening to us 10 years ago. Now they’re bringing their kids to the show. We’re seeing more families out there. That just shows the longevity of the band. That’s one of the things we’re most proud of – the fact that we’ve been able to continue to do this, because this is not really an easy gig to get.”

While not an original member of 3 Doors Down, Henderson joined Arnold, guitarist Matt Roberts and bassist Todd Harrell as the band began cutting its first demo recordings. The demos, which included Kryptonite, began gaining regional airplay. That led to an invitation to perform at the famed New York punk haven CBGB’s, which eventually moved the band on to a contract with Republic Records.

The drum chair has revolved a few times since then. Greg Upchurch has sat there since 2005. But the bond Arnold, Henderson, Roberts and Harrell have built and fortified over the past 12-plus years has become unbreakable on personal and professional levels, the guitarist said.

“At this point, I’ve spent more time with them than I have with my own family. I have seven brothers and one sister, but I spent more time with Brad, Matt and Todd – close time in buses, airplanes and hotels in different places around the world – than I have with anyone else on the planet. So, I’m closer to these guys than anyone else on the planet. I know what they’re thinking and they know what I’m thinking.

“That kind of thing, that kind of bond… it’s really indescribable.”

3 Doors Down, Theory of a Deadman and Pop Evil performs at 7 p.m. Oct. 1 at Rupp Arena. Tickets are $29.50-$49.50. Call (859) 233-3535, (800) 745-3000.

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