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Stone Temple Pilots: Half the band they used to be?

November 18, 2009

I remember seeing Stone Temple Pilots in the summer of 1999 when they played with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The Chillies had just released the highly (highly!) anticipated Californication and reunited with guitarist John Frusciante, who left some seven years earlier. STP was doing a delayed tour for their album No. 4, which was postponed because front man Scott Wieland was in jail for drug related charges. Needless to say the hype for No. 4 was not as big, even though there were some great tracks like “sour girl” and “down” on it.

The most intriguing thing about this whole line up, which also included Fish Bone, was that everyone, including all the local media, couldn’t stop talking about how amazing STP were, and even more, that they even out-rocked the Chillies, who closed the show. I couldn’t agree with this more, and it is definitely the answer that is always in my head whenever someone asks that question, what is the best concert you’ve ever been to?

But by saying that STP stole the show, what I really mean is that Scott Wieland did, with his skin tight leather pants, Travis Bickle mohawk and a pair of long, white, silky lady’s gloves the only thing covering his naked upper half. After telling the audience that he had been sober for 60 days (perhaps assisted by his time in jail?), he then proceeded to give the audience a performance that only a completely fucked up, stoned out of his mind Wieland can give, really emphasizing the past tense of his previous statement (he never said he was still sober). And it was incredible, with his intense, junkie eyes almost staring through the crowd, snake like dance moves and poses like a street performing contortionist mad out of his mind. They just continued to play hit after hit, with the eccentric Wieland on top of the front speakers doing his thing and utterly captivating the entire audience.

The only reason I mention this concert is because whatever he was on when he played that unforgettable night in ‘99, he was on the opposite last night at Toronto’s Kool Haus. I know this is going to sound bad and wrong in so many ways, but the fresh out of jail, cracked out Wieland is better than the fresh out of rehab, stiff and fragile looking one I saw on the stage last night.

The songs, yes, they sounded great and his voice was exactly what you would expect from a professional singer. But for me STP has always been 50 per cent music, 50 per cent persona, and the stage presence last night was completely non-existent. It almost looked like Wieland was in pain, and rather than bending his body in all sorts of ways it just looked like he had sore knees and forgot to take some Lakota.

There were very brief stints of some of Wieland’s famous dancing when they performed “Plush,” for instance, but it was still a mere shadow of what I have come to expect. During guitarists Dean DeLeo’s solos Weiland would just pick a spot on the ground and stare. When he was spinning in circles it looked less like he was into the music and more just confused, and you could even say cautious. At one point he almost managed to trip over the drum kit.

Right after the show someone I was there with asked me, “I wonder if he has Ozzy Osborne syndrome?” Meaning, has he just done way too many drugs for such a long period of time that he is reduced to a mumbling, incoherent mess. I wouldn’t say it’s that far yet, but there were some definite awkward moments.

In the middle of “sour girl” an extremely off tune duet between Wieland and DeLeo seemed to spring up out of nowhere, like each one was playing a different song (not to mention that Wieland seemed to be making up the words). But then they would play a pitch perfect and intense version of “down”, or have the entire audience chanting “STP, STP, STP” over some twelve bar blues, or even better, singing along to “creep.”

When they came back out for the encore, Wieland up again in his comfort zone, standing on the front speakers with a megaphone to his mouth, you could feel the anticipation in the crowd. It was half is he going to fall over, half what are they going to play? After a moment of silence the familiar lyrics of perhaps one of their best songs, “dead and bloated,” blasted out of the megaphone and for a minute it was just like being back in 1999. Wieland must have felt it too because perhaps for the first time of the night his dance moves seemed to really come back to him, although it was short lived.

Don’t get me wrong. This was still a good show, and if I seem to talk about Wieland a bit too much, it’s because he is essentially STP to people like me; people who like their rock stars gangly and completely fucked up, above any sort of regular societal norms (example: When Wieland did go to jail it was because he was picked up in Manhattan trying to buy drugs, dressed as a pimp no less).  

But when the four band members took to the front of the stage at the end of the show, bowing together and covering their hearts with their hands to show how much the applause meant to them, I couldn’t help but think this was my last chance to ever see this iconic symbol of the ‘90s LA rock scene. While I will always have their ’99 performance etched in my memory, I’m definitely glad I didn’t miss this.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 20, 2009 1:41 am

    I was at that RHCP concert too — awesome show put on by both bands, but yeah, STP especially. It’s a weird feeling to wish your favourite artists would go back to being fucked up. I was listening to old Mary J Blige the other day and I forgot how fantastic she was when she was all depressed and shit. I miss the old Weiland too but damn. I don’t really want to see everyone end up like ODB or Winehouse; maybe I should stop making fun of Common (who I liked better when he liked alcohol) and other artists who turned cheese because they found stability and just be happy for them? (On the flipside, I wish Lauryn Hill would *stop* being fucked up. She’s a rare genius who was way cooler happy and coherent.)

  2. James permalink
    December 20, 2009 11:09 am

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