Whenever a band has new material to hawk on the road, the tendency is to play through the album and merely dotting fans with the hits. Not so for Stone Temple Pilots.
After a nine-year absence from the recording studio and nearly as many from the stage, the hard-rocking quartet kicked off their reunion tour at Austin Music Hall, capacity 3000, their forthcoming self-titled album wrapped and ready for debut. But only four tracks from the effort made their way to the stage.
Instead, everybody was transported back 1993 to 2001, as it dawned on all just how many STP songs had made it to radio and just how many we all still knew the lyrics to.
Scott Weiland made this time warp easy. The frontman was just as lithe and charismatic as he was back in the band’s arena days. Donning crisp grey pants, matching formal vest, a skinny tie and a white button down and, bless his heart, what looked like a leopard print belt, Weiland crawled on top of monitors, backbent into the floor on the big notes, sang down on his knees and rarely allowed the mic to just be on its stand.
It all started with mega-hit “Vaseline”; Weiland’s voice searched for the notes a bit, proving that there would be no tracked vocals tonight and there perhaps were some tech problems early on. But those very clearly went away by time hits like “Creep,” “Sex Type Thing,” "Big Empty," "Plush" and "Sour Girl” were up.
Even by second song "Wicked Garden" Weiland was gradually, eventually loosening his necktie, and his body shaking the vest free like it rejected wearing it to begin with. He very modestly mentioned that there was a new album on the way (May 25 to be precise) and even seemed self-conscious in explaining the return, referring to it as a project outside of ego.
The group played the first single from that upcoming set, “Between the Lines,” that boasts a gnarly tempo, a simple rock structure and natural, throwback bir-nir-nir guitar solo from guitarist Dean DeLeo, Weiland angularly strutting in these bars like Perry Ferrell without all the funny clothes. It managed to stay short, shy of that magical 3:30 mark.
The other new tracks were “Hickory Dichotomy,” with its slide-guitar, NFL/pro-wrestling get-up-and-go campy feel; “Huckleberry Crumble,” a near-dance tune, less sweet and more rumbly; and general rock ‘n’ roll tune “Bagman,” on which Weiland exercised his idiosyncratic vibrato and his sexy A-stance more than ever.
The surprise guest of the night – with rumors swirling during the day that it’d be Soundgarden or Weiland’s former Velvet Revolver cohort Slash – was Robbie Krieger. Those in the audience who, upon his entry to the stage, were in the dark as to who this guitarist is were treated to some hints: for one, he and the band launched into The Doors’ classic “Roadhouse Blues” and two, and I kid you not, the man arrived wearing a Doors shirt. Wearing the t-shirt of your own band may be considered tacky in some circles, but – hey --who are we to judge if we’re not Robbie Krieger. (He was in town to promote the Johnny Depp-narrated documentary “When You’re Strange.”)
The expected encore was that and "Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart," by which time the full house was still entirely intact, and singing along. I believe the lyrics “I’m not dead and I’m not for sale” were specifically manufactured to evoke that crowd reaction where people point at the ceiling or singer when they sing it, a gesture when seen on a large scale from the balcony was strangely moving.
In a gracious and classy move, the band put their arms around each other and bowed at the end, a reassurance that they liked it, and liked us, and even like each other again. It was a beyond-likeable, hour-plus show, a good omen for the tour to come.
STP are on the road through the end of the month, and will return for another tour as the album release date approaches.