Monday, March 29, 2010

'Pilots' Soar Above Weiland's Turbulance

Concert Review

Stone Temple Pilots
Riviera Theatre, Chicago

I wouldn't want Scott Weiland dating my sister. The STP singer is a notorious heroin addict with numerous arrests, rehab stints and relapses to his name.

But--and perhaps not coincidentally--he is an excellent vocalist, front man and rock star, something we don't have enough of these days. And along with his three bandmates--who've put up with an unenviable amount of Weiland's crap, including his ditching them to join Velvet Revolver in 2004--he put on a really remarkable show at the Riv Saturday night. 

I was never a huge STP fan back in their early-to-mid '90s heyday, thinking them a lesser version of Pearl Jam and not on par with several other contemporaries. Even now, they would not quite make my Top 10 Bands of the 90s (1.Nirvana, 2.Pearl Jam, 3.Smashing Pumpkins, 4.Radiohead, 5.Green Day, 6.Nine Inch Nails, 7.Soundgarden, 8.Foo Fighters, 9.Blur, 10.Oasis, with STP probably coming next above Alice In Chains, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine and Counting Crows). Other than a greatest hits compilation I once put together, I've never owned any Stone Temple Pilots album in any form. I rarely even listen to their hits and have never felt compelled to explore their music further.

But when it comes to a balls-to-the-wall, 90-minute rock concert, even in 2010, STP is flat out incredible. Having realized, a bit after the fact, that while STP was a bit derivative and not truly brilliant, they were a pretty darn good rock band at their best, I had seen them at the Riv in 2002 and was quite impressed with the power of their show at a small venue. And 8 years later, they sounded every bit as good and probably no worse than they would've been in 1994.

Among their 17-song setlist, they played a few new cuts from their forthcoming self-titled album, which didn't sound out of place but didn't dazzle on first listen either. And if Weiland wasn't stoned--he's perpetually "said to be clean"--almost all of his stage banter was still seemingly incoherent, at least from my vantage point in the Riviera's balcony. And while the energy never sapped, 90 minutes was more than enough, with only about half of that truly impeccable. So I can't quite award @@@@@, but with songs like Vasoline, Crackerman, Interstate Love Song, Sex Type Thing, Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart ideal for a good ol' hot, sweaty, testosterone-fueled rock concert, and STP delivering with all the primal ferocity one could want--accompanied by an impressive video backdrop--it made for a show as good as I could have hoped, and one of the best I've seen in awhile.

Set List
1. Vasoline
2. Crackerman
3. Wicked Garden
4. Hollywood Bitch
5. Between the Lines
6. Hickory Dichotomy
7. Big Empty
8. Sour Girl
9. Creep
10. Plush
11. Interstate Love Song
12. Bagman
13. Huckleberry Crumble
14. Sex Type Thing
15. Dead And Bloated
16. Lounge Fly
17. Piece of Pie
18. Trippin' On A Hole In A Paper Heart


One sour note that had nothing to do with the band itself, but with a security hassle upon entrance. I happen to carry what I can best call a "just in case" assortment of over-the-counter medications in a prescription bottle, for headaches, stomachaches, heartburn and other potentially inconvenient maladies. Perhaps this is neurotic and unnecessary, but there's nothing illegal and I've never been hassled about it, despite having gone through numerous security checkpoints at venues and airports around the world. Nor was there an issue at the Riv three weeks ago at the Ray Davies' show. But on Saturday, I was asked to show it upon being patted down on entry and was told it wasn't allowed in. Or actually, the first checker told me to talk to someone else, who did likewise and after dealing with four different people about an assortment of Tylenol, Pepcid, Immodium, Benedryl, etc., they let me in with it--I had already been long-separated from my friend who didn't know what was happening--but told me it wouldn't be allowed "next time." But nobody told me what policy I was violating. Is it illegal to have non-prescription (but not illegal) medicine in a prescription bottle without a prescription label? And why only at the Riviera Theatre among all places on Earth?

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