Monday, November 8, 2010

Stone Temple Pilots concert review

My review originally appeared in the Orange County Register and can be viewed here: 
Scott Weiland photo, taken in August at Red Rocks in Colorado, courtesy of
(a great STP fan site)

Stone Temple Pilots, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles, 
Oct. 29, 2010

Sometimes a joke can speak volumes.

Halfway through Stone Temple Pilots’ powerful show Friday night at Nokia Theatre, singer Scott Weiland looked down at the setlist and announced they were going to play a song by a “big English rock band.” But he jumped the gun and corrected himself: “I meant a big American rock band — us.”

During the ’90s, of course, STP was one of the biggest grunge groups around. A dominant force on alternative and album-oriented rock radio here, their first two albums, Core (1992) and Purple (1994), sold a combined 15 million copies, while the next two discs (1996’s Tiny Music … Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop and 1999’s No. 4) also went platinum.

Yet Weiland’s persistent drug and alcohol problems led to various stints in jail and rehab and elevated tensions among members (guitarist Dean DeLeo faced substance abuse to a lesser extent). STP split up in 2003.

Two years ago the quartet reconvened for a highly successful tour that included a debut at the Hollywood Bowl. An impressive self-titled effort, their first work in nearly a decade, came out in spring and finds the musicians expanding upon their usual crunchy rock sound with excursions into glam, psychedelia and power pop.

STP’s 90-minute, 18-song concert in Los Angeles touched upon most of the ’90s hits and a smattering from Stone Temple Pilots (only four of its dozen cuts). With his trademark megaphone at the ready, Weiland and the guys opened with a menacing “Crackerman,” while a giant LED screen displayed muted images (it was later put to better use flashing lyrics).

Despite some recent controversy, where Weiland admitted to drinking again at a Houston show and subsequently rescheduled concert dates, the frontman looked and sounded just fine at Nokia.

Boisterous fans — many dressed in Halloween costumes — packed the lower level of the venue (the upper section was closed off). They howled at DeLeo’s opening ramshackle notes to “Wicked Garden.” After that forceful delivery, Weiland and DeLeo smiled and hugged as if to congratulate each other for a job well done. “Vasoline,” where the vocals were crisp, sported an equally gargantuan delivery.

The camaraderie extended to Robert DeLeo, too. From time to time, Weiland marched across the stage and leaned on the bassist and backing vocalist while singing. On the careening, glamtastic new tune “Huckleberry Crumble,” Weiland got down and sang into Dean’s guitar pickup — a clear nod to his idol David Bowie and Mick Ronson’s infamous Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars tour pose. Current single “Cinnamon” also proved to be a pop-inflected wonder.

And that previously mentioned cover tune? It turned out to be Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days,” which STP did for the 1995 tribute album Encomium. The Nokia performance choice was appropriate, considering Dean’s guitar style and slide work often pays a stylistic debt to Jimmy Page. Spiraling new track “Hickory Dichotomy,” also done this night, references it amid a solo.

The band capped its main set with a thunderous “Sex Type Thing.” Weiland brought a boy from backstage (ostensibly his 10-year-old son, Noah) to sing the opening line of “Dead & Bloated” into the megaphone. All told, the band was definitely firing on all cylinders.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, back for a return engagement as an STP opening act, put on a mind-blowing 45-minute set. The L.A.-based noise-rock trio formed in the late ’90s (Danish drummer Leah Shapiro, an ex-touring member of the Raveonettes, joined a few years ago). They provide a palpable sense of danger live. Chalk it up to dark-hued songs infused with fuzztone and feedback-laden guitars, deadpan vocals, plus inspiration derived from the Jesus and Mary Chain, British shoegazers and alternafolk.

The squealing groove of “666 Conducer” kicked things off; “Ain’t No Easy Way” was an appealing, swampy blues stomp. “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo,” the mesmerizing and intense title track of BRMC’s latest album, concluded with a group chant. “Conscience Killer” raced along at a fast clip, while another new song, “Shadow’s Keeper,” was driven by a dense maelstrom between singer-guitarist Peter Hayes and bassist-singer Robert Levon Been (whose father Michael, the former singer for the Call and BRMC’s sound engineer, passed away over the summer). Slowly, it coalesced into a mountain of noise à la My Bloody Valentine.

Then Shapiro exited for the quiet conclusion: Hayes and Been calmly singing together to minimal reverb guitar sounds on “Open Invitation,” a hidden track off 2005’s Howl. Everything went down like a storm with the STP crowd. I look forward to experiencing a full show from the band in the future.

Main set:
Crackerman / Wicked Garden / Vasoline / Heaven & Hot Rods / Between the Lines / Hickory Dichotomy / Still Remains / Cinnamon / Big Empty / Dancing Days / Silvergun Superman / Plush / Interstate Love Song / Huckleberry Crumble / Down / Sex Type Thing
Encore: Dead & Bloated / Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart

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