By Michael Lello
Photos by Jason Riedmiller
MOUNT POCONO, Pa. — While he may not garner as much respect as his Seattle counterparts, Scott Weiland is one of the undeniable voices of ’90s alternative rock. With Stone Temple Pilots, he offered a trippy, Californian parallel to the grunge coming out of the Emerald City, combining crushing rock riffs with a glammy, L.A.-via-London, Jim Morrison-meets-David Bowie swagger.
This isn’t to say it’s not easy to pass judgment, especially with the benefit of hindsight. The guy sings through a bullhorn (still) and smelled like a rose on his birthday deathbed and all of that. But who isn’t a product of their times?
Performing at the Mount Airy Casino’s Gypsies Nightclub on Saturday, Weiland reasserted his place in the rock game as well as hinted at a bright future, slithering and sauntering through classic tracks as well as promising new songs from his upcoming album.
Following a blues-rock introduction by his band, the Wildabouts, Weiland strutted onto the stage, clad in jeans, jean jacket, stylish sunglasses and a scarf. He fiddled with a noise-making contraption – as he did frequently throughout the concert – before yelling “Are you ready?” and picking up, yes, the bullhorn, asking “Crackerman?” He led the Wildabouts through a tight and powerful version of the tune from STP’s 1992 debut, “Core.” He changed the pace with the well-executed and relatively crooner-esque “Paralysis” and the textured, groove-driven “Killing Me Sweetly,” both from “Happy In Galoshes,” his second and most recent solo record, showing a softer side of his vocal prowess.
Weiland followed up with the driving “Do It For The Kids,” a song by Velvet Revolver, the band he fronted with ex-Guns N’ Roses members Slash and Duff McKagan. He introduced it as “a song for one of my favorite bands,” a possible jab at his ex-VR mates. “Circles” – this was the first time the group played it publicly, Weiland said of the song slated to be on the upcoming record – was built on Danny Thompson’s insistent tom-tom beats and eerie guitars by Doug Grean.
“It’s really weird playing here in a movie theater,” Weiland joked to the seated audience, removing his sunglasses and leading the Wildabouts into the catchy and somewhat psychedelic “Barbarella,” from his 1998 debut “12 Bar Blues.” On the choruses, he paid tribute to one of his idols, singing “ch-ch-changes,” Bowie-style.
“It would feel like a rock ’n’ roll show if everyone stands,” Weiland said, and the audience obliged as he and the Wildabouts played a Doors-esque rocker. Weiland climbed the drum riser, grabbed a pair of sticks and played along with Thompson before returning to his noise machine.
Jeremy Brown’s bassline signaled the unmistakable Janes Addiction favorite, “Mountain Song,” and while one might have expected just a tease, the band played the entire tune. Weiland led the group through the song with power and flair, and it received a wild crowd response. He shook hands with those in the front row.
“Dead and Bloated” was the first STP song played since the “Crackerman” opener, and it too received a predictably strong reaction. He sped up part of the verses, giving the well-known tune a little polishing-up but not obscuring it whatsoever. Another new one, “White Lightnin’ Jalopy,” was hit and miss, while the grinding “Vasoline” stayed true to the STP original.
Another new one – Weiland said it’s called “Fuck Forever” – was upbeat and catchy. “You’ll never hear this on the radio,” he said.
Weiland and company returned for an encore of “Unglued,” the well-known STP track from their 1994 sophomore effort “Purple.” Grean played a big solo, before every band member sans Thompson made their instruments feed back, turning the ballroom into a noise chamber. “I want candy,” Weiland sang through the bullhorn, adding to the psychedelic spectacle, bringing the show to a conclusion.
Billed as the “Purple to the Core” tour, one might’ve expected Weiland to stick mostly to STP tunes. Instead, the setlist was notable for what it did not include: no “Plush,” “Interstate Love Song,” “Creep,” “Big Empty,” “Big Bang Baby,” “Trippin’ on a Whole in a Paper Heart,” “Wicked Garden,” or even Velvet Revolver’s biggest hits, “Slither” and “Fall to Pieces.” While that might have left some fans disappointed, it was interesting to see Weiland mine deeper cuts and not simply prop himself up on radio hits. With earlier reports of spotty or even “trainwreck” shows earlier in the year, it was even more satisfying to see how he and the Wildabouts played – with precision and power, and a taste of rock ’n’ roll swagger.