Stone Temple Pilots: Concert Review

Scott Weiland sounds fine but doesn't display his usual swagger as the supposedly forward-looking band focuses on its '90s heyday.

The reunited '90s hitmakers play a packed club show to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

For a reunited band bent on having a future, Stone Temple Pilots spent most of its House of Blues show Wednesday visiting the past -- the distant past.

Fifteen of the 19 songs were from the first two albums, most played with meticulous attention to the recorded versions. It was a crowd-pleasing recital of radio hits with a couple of album cuts for the hardcore and no covers. Familiar riff after sing-along chorus.

That's swell, even encouraged -- for a heritage act. But there was no mention, let alone preview, of any rumored new music. There's a not-so-fine line between reunion and comeback.

But the sardine-packed crowd at the inaugural St. Jude's Rock 'n' Roll Hope Show got what it wanted -- mostly. One hitch: Scott Weiland, firmly re-ensconced out front of STP after his Velvet Revolver sideshow, simply seemed off.

His vocals were solid enough, but he certainly wasn't the swaggering, charismatic scene-stealer who wowed concertgoers in the '90s. Those trademark snaky shimmies and slinks were oddly stiff, and even his usual pleasant chattiness was reined in.

Instead there were thank-yous, song intros that mostly just included the titles and a throwaway line about how much fun the band was having. His longest address to the crowd was about how tickets for this benefit show were more expensive than usual. "Paying is not such a bad thing for a cause like this," he said. He never named the cause.

(Proceeds benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. The Rock 'n' Roll Hope Show was co-created by Jason Thomas Gordon, grandson of St. Jude founder and TV icon Danny Thomas. Gordon's band Kingsize opened Wednesday's show.)

Weiland's sluggishness aside, the SoCal quartet remains a strong live act. Basically a power trio plus singer, the band's propulsive songs have held up pretty well. The crowd equally cheered such fierce rockers as "Crackerman" and "Unglued," midtempo hits "Vasoline" and "Wicked Garden" and the purposeful plod of "Creep" and "Big Empty."

Breakout single "Plush" remains the fan favorite, and the band pumped on it. The song that labeled STP as grunge glommers-on in the early '90s is one of those hits that reminds everyone of something, and as that uber-basic riff slogs away, it still sounds good live.

The band played their two best songs back-to-back late in the main set. The 1999 mini-hit "Down" is a live juggernaut that spotlights STP's Zeppelin influence. Its face-slap opening and Weiland's moaning wails fed into a heavy crunch driven by Eric Kretz's Bonham-esque bashing. They followed that with "Sex Type Thing," the menacing, riff-driven rocker from the first album that still jumps off the stage or the radio.

Weiland gave his trusty bullhorn a workout, deploying it for no fewer than six songs, as Dean DeLeo fired off fuzzy guitar licks and arena-rock leads. Show closer "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart" came off as sibling one-upmanship: As DeLeo took off on perhaps his best-known solo, brother Robert's bass somehow overshadowed it.

With rumors of a new album in the works -- it would be their first since the 2001 misfire Shangri-La Dee Da, which was ignored at Wednesday's show -- there would seem to be room for a full-fledged STP comeback. But it'd take a hot advance single followed by an album that could supply a few more. And then a tour -- with Weiland having better nights than this one.

Set list:
Silvergun Superman
Wicked Garden
Big Empty
Lounge Fly
Army Ants
Sour Girl
Interstate Love Song
Seven Caged Tigers
Sex Type Thing

Piece of Pie
Dead and Bloated
Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart

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