The chasm between the coasts and so-called fly-over country is pronounced in many media, but nowhere is it more apparent than in the world of pop music — where acts who sell out sheds and dominate radio airwaves in middle America often don’t bother scheduling gigs in the New York City area.Daughtry (fronted by “American Idol” finalist Chris Daughtry), decided to eschew that wisdom on its current tour, and judging by the response at the first of its two metro-area shows Sunday night, there’s at least a bit of an appetite for heartland rock in the vicinity. While it’s probably safe to say Daughtry would never have gotten a record deal if not for the “Idol” connection, there was little made-for-TV glitz on display during the headliners’ meat-and-potatoes 90-minute set. Set against a spare backdrop and bathed in a simple-but-effective light show, the affably rugged singer and his band delivered the sort of performance that harked back to the days when forebears like Foreigner and REO Speedwagon ruled the roost with their sinewy singalongs. There’s no denying the anthemic nature of songs like “No Surprise” and “Home,” both of which were tweaked slightly from their recorded versions — mostly to allow guitarist Josh Steely his time in the spotlight. Those detours, however, seldom steered the quintet too far from the middle of the road. That safety-first mindset even extended to their choice of covers — which included a wedding-band-styled version of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” Openers Cavo and Lifehouse each took one element of the Daughtry mix and ran with it during sets that were surprisingly brief, considering each has staked its own claim to a sizable patch of rock radio territory. Cavo delivered quite a bit of punch, thanks in large part to the oversized riffs turned out by Chris Hobbs, a Pearl Jam acolyte with a willingness to put the pedal to the metal when the situation called for it. The same could not be said for Lifehouse, whose powerless power ballads had the attitude and flash of a suburban self-help seminar.
Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.; 17,625 capacity; $42.50 top
Presented by AEG Live.
Band: Chris Daughtry, Josh Paul, Josh Steely, Joey Barnes, Bryan Craddock. With: Lifehouse (Jason Wade, Rick Woolstenhulme Jr., Bryce Soderburg, Ben Carey; Cavo (Casey Walker. Chris Hobbs, Chad La Roy, Brian Smith). Reviewed March 21, 2010.