Sour Girl: Stone Temple Pilots and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at Dodge Theatre, July 29
By Niki D'Andrea
We were supposed to have a big slide show of Stone Temple Pilots' performance, but our photographer, Luke Holwerda, was one of several professional photogs booted from the venue seconds into STP's set. According to Luke, a man (presumably STP's manager) yelled "Don't crowd Scott!" at them, pushed them back, and then announced "You're all out! You're done!" After the song, STP singer Scott Weiland encouraged everyone in the crowd to push forward, prodding "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon," and then berating venue security: "You're going to stop them from enjoying a rock show?" Hundreds of audience members got up in Weiland's face throughout the show, taking pictures with their cell phones.
You can view the Stone Temple Pilot photos we were able to take here.
Now, on with the show.
Better than: A blowtorch enema.
The show was supposed to start at 8 p.m. I arrived at 7:40, and was surprised to see a band on stage. I caught half of their last song. Me and the six people sitting around me all agreed they sounded "pretty good." I later learned the band was called The Color Turning.
I was eager to see Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, having been a fan of their gritty, dark rock since I first heard "Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll" in 2002. I was curious as to how they'd set the tone for Stone Temple Pilots.
Almost every song began with feedback, but the three-piece band from Los Angeles was rock solid, nailing a 40-minute set that included BRMC tunes like "Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll" (the set closer), "Weapon of Choice," and "Ain't No Easy Way Out." The last song deviated from the band's usual burly, bottom-heavy sound, with the band switching electric axes for acoustics, fervent harmonica, and a honky tonk guitar solo.
As far as setting the tone, BRMC went nuts with the stroboscopic effects (I thought my eyeballs were going to gyrate out of their sockets), but the band's occasional indulgence in extended, dark psych jams didn't exactly pump the audience up for the "big rock show."
And yes, I expected a big show rock show. I saw Stone Temple Pilots perform at the Arizona State Fair in 2000, back in Veterans Memorial Coliseum's "big crack in the ceiling" days. The band sounded great in spite of the venue's structural damage, and I remember I left that show thinking Scott Weiland was the consummate front man.
Then I saw Velvet Revolver at Cricket Wireless Pavilion last year. I wrote a rather scathing review, and readers who attended that show (and other VR shows throughout the country) largely agreed with my negative assessments.
I was honestly hoping he'd surprise me this time, that he'd prance on stage with his usual gyrating swagger and messianic posing and sound as smooth as ever. But before Weiland -- wearing black emo jeans, a white shirt with a tie, and a safari hat -- could sing a note, he already had me confused.
Addressing the audience before opening with "Big Empty," Weiland said, "What is the truth? What is reality? Your truth, your knowledge, that becomes your truth, becomes the reality...figure it out for yourself."
Um, okay, Weiland. You're not high, are you?
The band sounded good, and vocally, Weiland wasn't as horribly off-key as I remember him being when I saw Velvet Revolver (Weiland was fired seven months later, in April '08, with VR publicly citing Weiland's "increasingly erratic stage behavior and personal problems"). Weiland did do some interesting lyrical improv during "Big Empty," including something about how "masturbation kills."
Before introducing the second song, "Wicked Garden," Weiland slurs, "We're gonna do this fucking shit...and if you feel like I'm pissed off tonight, I am."
This muttering of manly aggression could be the only logical explanation for the teenagers who were crowd surfing to "Sour Girl" later in the set, a mid-tempo song that sounds like a Beatles tribute. It's not quite as ridiculous as body slamming to "Son of a Preacher Man," but similarly belongs in the Gratuitous Moment of Grossly Misplaced Excitement category.
To the band's credit, their set was packed with the songs everybody wanted to hear -- "Creep," "Big Bang Baby," "Vasoline," "Interstate Love Song," "Plush," "Sex Type Thing" -- and Weiland didn't sound horrible. He didn't blow me away and he still frequently missed pitch, but his voice sounded stronger than it did when I saw him sing last time. He easily pulled off the high notes in the chorus of "Lady Picture Show," and he danced and pranced and crawled in almost-vintage Scott Weiland form (even getting down on his knees with the megaphone in a swirling cloud of smoke during "Lounge Fly").
In fact, if it weren't for Weiland's often unintelligible between-song banter, his performance could've been passed off as an example of the enigmatic rock star having a slightly off-night. As it was, he sounded like Jim Morrison, speaking with a drawl and saying stuff like, "The whole concept of this is to take you on a little journey."
The "journey" would've been less of a bum trip if they would've turned off the damn lights in Dodge Theatre. For 75% of the set, the entire audience was bathed in overhead beams, to the point where people were screaming "Turn the lights off!"
Overall, I'd say Stone Temple Pilots is still worth seeing live, mainly because their song catalog is incredible and the band still sounds tight, even if the irony of "Creep" is glaring when Weiland croons, "I'm half the man I used to be."
Random detail: When I bought bottled water, the woman at the concessions stand told me, "We have to put all bottled water in cups tonight, for some reason." That reason would be so audience members wouldn't chuck bottles at Weiland's head.
Personal bias: I'd rather see a full moon than a half-ass.