Stone Temple Pilots Surprise at KROQ Weenie Roast: Concert Review
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Irvine (Saturday, May 18)
Linkin Park vocalist Chester Bennington acted as the STP frontman when the band played an unscheduled set during the alt-rock radio station's annual spring festival.
Blame it on Fitz. At KROQ's 21st Annual Weenie Roast, some of the acts on the bill seemed to engage in a game of theatrical one-upmanship that carried on into the night at the alt-rock radio station's spring festival. It started when Fitz and the Tantrums' frontman Michael Fitzpatrick took a full-on stage dive into the crowd in the middle of the neo-soul band's afternoon set on the side stage, and the antics continued as the festivities wore on. Later, there was a surprise appearance by Stone Temple Pilots -- with a new frontman -- and a dramatic Hollywood-style entrance by Thirty Seconds to Mars' Jared Leto.
During Atlas Genius' opening set on the main stage, Keith Jeffery ventured into the pit with his guitar and never stopped playing. Along with their current hit "Trojans," the Aussie quartet offered a set of quirky, XTC-like rock.
A few sets later, Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds went full-throttle Bono, running into the crowd and climbing more than half the amphitheater's stairs while singing the band's hit anthem "It's Time."
When night fell, those big moments got even bigger. Making a surprise appearance between Vampire Weekend and Thirty Seconds to Mars was Stone Temple Pilots -- the band wasn't on the bill. The last anyone had heard from the group, singer Scott Weiland had been "terminated," while he claimed they couldn't go on without him and launched a solo tour performing songs from the band's first two albums.
Well, apparently Weiland has lost that battle. On Saturday night, STP took flight with a new lead singer, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington. He did a fine job filling in for Weiland, frequently mugging and interacting with the DeLeo brothers, guitarist Dean and bassist Robert, who were flanking him on each side. The band opened with "Vasoline" and plowed through six other radio staples, stopping midway through to premiere their debut single with Bennington, "Out of Time." Neither the band nor Bennington was introduced, leaving some to assume STP had buried the hatchet with Weiland.
While following the STP surprise would be a tall order from some, the members of Thirty Seconds to Mars had no problem. Then again, singer Jared Leto splits his time between fronting the band and acting, so it shouldn't have been too shocking that he staged the evening's most dramatic entrance. As images from the band's bizarre new video for "Up in the Air" were beamed on the big screen, the six drummers featured in the video wearing multi-colored ski masks pounded away on stage with drummer Shannon Leto and bassist Tomo Milicevic. The striking visuals and intense rhythms provided enough distraction to allow Jared to sneak into the middle of the crowd with an acoustic guitar and begin the set with the band's hit "The Kill (Bury Me)" before making his way down to the stage to join the band.
From there, the band performed "Kings and Queens" with the grandeur of Joshua Tree-era U2, and during "This Is War," a flood of giant balloons was unleashed on the crowd, including a white balloon creature that seemed like some sort of mutant offspring of Pink Floyd's flying pig. To cap things off, Leto invited mostly female fans from the audience to dance, filling the stage for the set-closing epic "Up in the Air."
All that excitement and visual stimulation made The Black Keys no-frills closing set seem anticlimactic, with singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney relying on their music rather than theatrics and props. Augmented by a keyboardist/guitarist and a bassist, the Keys' dozen-song set was loose but relatively subdued, although "Little Black Submarines" proved particularly effective. That song began with Auerbach's acoustic solo with Carney joining in on the second verse, before launching into total attack with Auerbach switching to electric guitar and the rest of the band joining in. The recent hits "Gold on the Ceiling" and "Lonely Boy" also got the crowd going just before the band stripped down to their original twosome on the closer, "I Got Mine."
Other acts on the bill who relied on their musical chops included prep-rockers Vampire Weekend, who continue to mine the fertile ground between nearly forgotten '80s act Haircut 100 and Paul Simon's landmark Graceland. The band, lead by singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig did add some other influences, as evidence in their new hit "Diane Young," which featured Koenig hiccupping "baby, baby, baby" like a '50s rockabilly star with modern vocal effects.
Iceland's Of Monsters and Men, who have graduated from one-hit-wonder status since their appearance at KROQ's Almost Acoustic Christmas in December with "Mountain Sound," entertained with their earthy mix of sweet male-and-female voices and varied instrumentation, including accordion and horns. They're the missing link between Mumford & Sons and the Arcade Fire.
Jimmy Eat World tore through a set of infectious pop-punk with their trademark vocal interplay. They slowed it down slightly on the new acoustic-laced "Damage" and the ballad "You Hear Me" before craning it back up for the set-closing "The Middle."
Silversun Pickups seemed sedate following Imagine Dragons' theatrics. But the band eventually won the crowd over with the hits "Panic Switch" and "Lazy Eye," with singer/guitarist Brian Aubert and touring bassist Sarah Negahdari showing boundless energy, especially toward the end of their six-song set.
AWOLNATION was one of the day's biggest surprises, with their mix of hard-rock riffs, quirky keyboards and screamo-like vocals. Their current hit "Sail" was particularly well received, with the crowd shouting along with the lyric "blame it on my ADD."
Overall, the show on the main stage was well paced, with the rotating stage making for nearly nonstop action. However, the side stage -- actually two side-by-side stages set up in an adjacent parking lot -- was overly crowded and made for difficult viewing. Then again, the concert benefits Heal the Bay and the Surfrider Foundation, so we don't want to complain too much about an event designed to entertain while supporting a worthy cause.