As crowds queued up at the doors, inside the dark concert venue vibrated with the sounds of the electric guitars of the opening band, Day SevEn, of Calhoun. Meanwhile, Welch chilled out upstairs as he waited to perform.
His tattooed hands absentmindedly twisted his dreadlocks into perfection as Welch recalled the darkness of his past.
“I felt empty, like, there’s nothing inside,” Welch said. “But I had everything. All my bills were paid. I had all kinds of toys and everything, but I just felt empty.”
Welch left Korn in 2005 after having a revelation. He had tried to fill the void in his life with drugs but found meaning in Jesus Christ.
“I never felt right,” he said. “I felt closer to normal when I was wasted all the time.”
Welch was dressed in grungy black clothing, and his eyelids were painted with heavy black liner, but despite his hardened appearance the rock star was there to help lead people to worship Christ.
“I just tell these people, ‘I know there are a lot of you guys out there feeling empty. Maybe there’s no meaning inside, and that’s the emptiness. You gotta fill it with meaning,’” he said, adding, “Tonight’s gonna be a good night. I can feel it.”
Welch said he was mainly going to play music off his first solo album but was looking forward to his new album that will come out in April.
“We’re kind of sick of playing these songs, but a lot of them are still cool,” he said. “We’ve got a new album coming out in April, so thank God for this summer.”
“Paralyzed,” a single from the upcoming album, is available to listen to on YouTube.com and for purchase on iTunes, he said.
Welch said he and his band members were enjoying their quick visit to the Rome area.
“We love it. We got here last night, and have been hanging out today,” he said. “It’s cool. I’m from a small town, Bakersfield, Calif., so I’ve got a heart for small towns.”
LIFE Church Community Pastor Greg Cater said the decision to bring in Welch to perform was to reach a more alternative group of Christians.
“We’re trying to reach the un-churched, people that maybe don’t necessarily fit in,” he said. “There are an element of people who do not have a place to worship, and we wanted to create an atmosphere and an environment where they’re welcome.”
Part of what was most appealing about Welch, Cater said, was his 180-degree turn from the superficial, rock star-lifestyle to follower of Christ.
“He’s had a radical change in his life because of Christ, and he’s never been the same,” said Cater, who heard Welch’s testimony on www.iamsecond.com.
People of all ages came to see Welch play, many of them fans of Korn. A group of young, aspiring musicians came to see Welch, hoping to learn a thing or two.
“We’re starting a band,” said Reese Stanfield, 18, and “a huge Korn fan.”
Stanfield said he and his band are still trying to pinpoint their style.
“We’re trying to look for an overall style, sort of a very dark rhythm, very heavy metal-type sound.”
Stanfield said he thinks heavy metal music and religion aren’t incompatible.
“Just because you make heavy metal music doesn’t mean it reflects who you are as a person,” he said. “Outside our music, we’re completely different people.”