Fresh off a recent "firing" by his bandmates as lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots, Scott Weiland arrived Tuesday night in Chicago with his new backing band The Wildabouts as part of the "Purple at the Core Tour" for an evening of odd antics at House of Blues...
The first time I saw Stone Temple Pilots, it was on a co-headlining bill with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Tinley Park in August of 2000. During that show, Weiland rambled incoherently between songs and eventually his bandmates stormed off in the middle of the set while he continued to rant nonsenically.
The last time I saw Stone Temple Pilots, it was in August of 2010. While I couldn't believe how good that he and the band sounded that night, the explanation why may have come a week later when Weiland fell off the stage in Cincinnati... as the vocals continued on in what seemed to be a flawless manner for someone who had just taken such a spill. A month later, the rest of that tour was canceled amidst allegations of lip synching and more.
So at this point, it's pretty well documented that if you go to see Scott Weiland live (whether it's solo or as a member of either of the bands he's been repeatedly kicked out of over the years), you're rolling the dice on exactly what kind of concert experience you're going to get. This was an important point to bear in mind on Tuesday.
In an era devoid of full on rock stars, Scott Weiland is a notable exception. His personal demons precede him... but so does his undeniable talent.
And it's probably for that reason, as well as the blatant air of unpredictability that comes with it, that people (myself included) continue to pay to see him. Though for someone who once played to stadium and arena crowds, it's notable that the last STP stop in Chicago (in September of 2012) was moved from the Riviera Theatre to the Vic Theatre due to poor ticket sales. Since then, Weiland has been fired as Stone Temple Pilots frontman and now, despite the promise of building a set around songs from classic STP albums Core and Purple, is unable to sell out a 1,300 person capacity venue like House of Blues.
So it would seem as if people are losing their patience.
And patience wasn't exactly a virtue on full display around me Tuesday night to start with as several people near left about forty minutes into the one hundred minute set. Tuesday's was an uneven set that vacillated wildly between flat out awful at its worst and pretty good at its best (certainly never great).
Backed now by a four piece band dubbed The Wildabouts (multi-instrumentalist Doug Grean, Tommy Black on bass, Dan Thompson on drums and Jeremy Brown on guitar), Weiland deviated from his "Purple at the Core" theme almost immediately, opting to open the show not with a number from either of the two STP albums he was supposedly celebrating but with a bluesy jam courtesy of the Wildabouts instead. Once he finally took the stage, Weiland joined the sloppiness with unintelliglbe vocals and what appeared to be difficulty standing upright.
From there, he tried to introduce "Crackerman" with a rambling story about how his former bands used to open their shows with it... but his new band actually cut him off mid-ramble with the opening licks to the Core cut instead. Probably not a good sign.
The show actually had a kind of "Storytellers" vibe throughout with Weiland taking plenty of time to explain the backstory of just about every song... in slow, deliberate, painstaking detail.
Occasionally, the stories were interesting (at one point he told of a time when he stood next to Perry Farrell as Kurt Cobain told him that if it weren't for Jane's Addiction, Nirvana wouldn't have been possible... An interesting story if true). But by and large, the stories were an exercise in attention span as they just went on and on and on unnecessarily.
Speech drawn and slurred, reflexes quite slow as people threw stuff to him onstage, Weiland actually wandered offstage following "Wicked Garden" advising the band to "jaaaaaaam" while he was away. The crowd grew restless as the enigmatic frontman returned to the stage seeming far more interested in his playing of the theremin than he was in actually singing anything recognizable. "Paralysis" from Weiland's 2008 solo effort Happy in Galoshes followed as he informed the crowd that a new Wildabouts record is nearly complete. The response was lackluster.
As the show plodded along, mult-instrumentalist Doug Grean ornamented familiar STP hits with flourishes of keyboard. It wasn't necessarily bad but it only really worked on a cover of The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues."
I was actually surprised just how many covers the band tackled Tuesday. Artists like The Doors and David Bowie ("Jean Genie") were expected as Weiland has always worn Bowie and Jim Morrison on his sleeve. Artists like Jane's Addiction ("Mountain Song") and The Libertines, on the other hand, were less expected. The scary part is that it was on some of these covers, as opposed to on the Stone Temple Pilots songs they were covering, when The Wildabouts were at their best and seemed most comfortable.
Ultimately, the band's best STP tracks Tuesday night were all from Purple and came later in the show as Weiland seemed to actually be starting to pull it together at times. Credit Grean for excellent guitar playing on "Kitchen Ware and Candy Bars" and Scott Weiland for carrying the vocals on both "Vaseline" and "Unglued."
But it probably shouldn't have been surprising that the oddest antics yet were saved for the end of the night as Weiland laid down on his back, megaphone in hand, yelling out indecipherable anecdotes about the city of Chicago to close the show as those in attendance rushed to capture the spectacle for posterity via camera phone pics and video.
When all was said and done Tuesday night, while Weiland certainly didn't appear to be in very good shape to start the show, I couldn't help but wonder how much of this show was theatrics and how much of it was actually... random, unplanned strangeness.
And I think the rest of the crowd was confused too... because when the show was over, as Weiland miraculously dragged himself off the stage under his own power, I certainly saw more confused looks, eyerolls and shoulder shrugs than I did outright displays of anger. It took me two days to post this review because, even forty-eight hours later, I was still trying to process what in the hell it was exactly that I saw.
While it doesn't appear to be a recipe for longterm success at this point (ask Courtney Love), Scott Weiland's antics certainly made for an interesting live concert experience Tuesday night at House of Blues... if nothing else.
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