Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stone Temple Pilots, Vector Arena, 26 March 2011

It's fair to say that I went in with pretty low expectations for this gig. This was not helped by the sheer awesomeness that was the Foo Fighters' earthquake relief show last Tuesday night.

Depending on your point of view, the Stone Temple Pilots produced two or three very good albums, and went pretty much steadily downhill from there. At the time though, they did go a little against the grain. Putting Core to one side, most of their output was tightly constructed 3-4 minute rock songs. Sounds pretty par for the course now, but at the time their contemporaries (we're talking Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and the like here) were fooling around with long songs, songs in funny time signatures (I'm looking at you Spoonman), and concept albums (even concept double-albums).

But if I was being blunt, I would have to say that I might have preferred another Army of Anyone or Velvet Revolver album as opposed to an STP reunion.

So yeah, I was basically at this show for the nostalgia trip, and didn't expect a lot else.

Speaking of nostalgia, it seemed apt that Head Like a Hole (AKA HLAH) played support. An iconic Kiwi band from the 90's who put together some pretty good songs (and a really good cover of the Beastie Boys' Lookin Down the Barrel of a Gun that I heard on bfm at the time but have never been able to find anywhere). I missed the start thanks to the incompetent promoter sending out an email three hours before the start advising that everyone was going to perform half an hour earlier than previously scheduled. Boo. Anyway HLAH were not half bad, lead singer Booga Beazley was his usual quirky, entertaining self, and although they played a bit too much 'new stuff', we still got a few classics - Hootenanny, Fish Across Face and their excellent cover of the Boss' I'm on Fire.

The crowd wasn't small but it wasn't huge either. The standard Vector Arena trick of 'pull the stage forward a bit and stick up curtains behind the seats' to make the venue feel a bit more full was applied.

Anyway, after a bit of a wait, out came the Pilots. My initial reaction was that Scott Weiland actually looks vaguely healthy for the first time in a long time. My second reaction was that I'm sure the megaphone he used on opening track Crackerman is the exact same megaphone that he used at this Velvet Revolver show in 2005. Don't ask me why I noticed that because I don't know.

Anyway, good choice of an opener. Especially followed by Wicked Garden and then Vasoline.

Especially Vasoline, which I think was the song that really got me into STP in the first place. It popped up on one of The Trip compilations - anyone remember them?! - and it was one of the first songs I can remember just wanting to play over and over and over and over and over. Even though I had to rewind the cassette. It's a tight, rocking track and I always loved the way the main riff spans across several bars so it feels like it's not quite in 4/4 time (even though it is).

It was also pretty evident at this point that - even though STP aren't prone to huge rock freakouts - the instrumental section of the band is extremely tight. Throughout the show I was really impressed with just what a unit the DeLeo brothers and Eric Kretz form, it was an impressive display of how to exhibit great musicianship - and bandship - without indulging in big flashy solos. Even though it was pretty clear to everyone that Dean DeLeo has some pretty mean blues chops.

And as for Scott Weiland, well he might be a bit aloof at times, but what a great singer. Even though I did find the lyrics from Between the Lines more than a little ironic ("... even when we used to take druuuugs").

The remainder of the show had a fairly even blend of material across their career - albeit with the total exclusion of Shangri La-dee-da (no great loss there) and the almost total exclusion of Tiny Music (surprisingly) until the encore.

The highlights were, undoubtedly, Plush and Big Empty. Plush, in particular.

Oh, and they threw in a cover of Led Zeppelin's Dancing Days as well - certainly showing their colours when it comes to musical influences. Although when it came to encore time, my mate Yuin actually wondered out loud if they had any songs left to play. As it was we got Dead and Bloated and Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart... but I think a third song may well have been a stretch.

So overall, an enjoyable show by a band that I think are well aware of what their strengths are - and they play to those strengths. The crowd was well up for it - in fact I'll admit to being surprised at the level of enthusiasm - and even if it was a bit of a nostalgia trip, it was certainly a memorable one.

Full setlist here.

Finally, this review of STP's Sydney show at the Hordern is well worth a read.

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