Live Review: Stone Temple Pilots - Santa Barbara Bowl
Mon, 15 Sep 2008 12:40:42
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Welcome to Weiland's Inferno. Forget about Dante's Divine Comedy. It's just not as relevant for rock n' roll. Scott Weiland is rock music's premier bard for every divine delusion—from addiction and loss to love and revolution. Even beyond the images of explosions and flames on screen behind them, Stone Temple Pilots possess a fire that few bands have, and it burned brightly at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday. The band's rounding out their reunion tour, and they've morphed into a more powerful rock n' roll juggernaut than ever before. Like the STP shows of the '90s, their playing and presence were northing short of transcendent.
They hit the stage just after 8pm under a full moon. The Santa Barbara Bowl is nestled comfortably into the side of a mountain, and the setting couldn't have been more perfectly majestic for the performance to come. The woozy, smoky lead guitar of "The Big Empty" set the tone for the evening. Weiland sauntered to the microphone with a cigarette in hand and a fedora perched on his head. He danced along with Dean DeLeo's guitar, crooning the song's immortal lyrics, "Driving faster in my car, falling farther from just what we are." The somber track proved just as poignant as it did in the mid-90s as Weiland and Co. examined existential loneliness under the clear night sky.
After the massive sing-a-long of the song's last refrain, "Conversations kill," Weiland addressed the crowd for the first of many times, simply stating, "Santa Barbara, this is a tune called 'Wicked Garden.''' After deafening cheers, the song's massive riff provoked the audience to move, scream and sing. The screen in the background resembled a lava lamp, giving the band a '70s arena rock aura that transformed the stage into a portrait in motion.
During "Wicked Garden," Weiland gyrated across the stage with a raw bravado, and he ended up on the speaker under a lone spotlight. He never stopped moving throughout the whole set. Flames took focus on the screen during "Big Bang Baby" as Weiland stood back-to-back with the DeLeo brothers. The band was simply dead on. During "Silvergun Superman," Robert's solo soared as he bent each note across the fret board with a gusto that was hard to match. The rhythmic symphony on "Vasoline" showed bassist Robert DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz locked in tight as they churned out massive grooves.
Right before "Lady Picture Show," Weiland exclaimed, "We're gonna bring a few vibes at ya. The story of this band sonically has always been a strange one. We've chosen to go places other bands have chosen not to, but they're places our heroes went." He made good on his promise, transporting the crowd to a world of amazing riffs and incredible vocals. During "Lounge Fly," Weiland's voice matched Dean's lead guitar. The frontman proved just as talkative as he's ever been. He even went on to explain the meaning of "Sour Girl" before the band played it. In between drags of a cigarette, he said "It was written a few years ago about a certain situation between me and my current situation, but the situation is still the same...'Sour Girl.'" It was a lovelorn moment that could be felt as much as the cool crisp air. The song's melody carried to the mountains and back, and once again, everyone sang along.
“The story of this band sonically has always been a strange one. We've chosen to go places other bands have chosen not to, but they're places our heroes went.”
"Creep," "Plush" and "Interstate Love Song" ignited the crowd's energy, while "Down" was explosive. "Sin" was psychedelic and catatonic, mixing a wall of distortion and an acoustic melody. It was a beautiful fall night in Southern California for one of the last great rock bands. "Sex Type Thing" was raucous and propulsive, and it saw the band jamming hard. Why don't they make rock bands this great anymore? What is it about the current climate that doesn't yield rock music this alive? Maybe we'll never know, but thankfully there's still STP.
The dual closer of "Dead and Bloated" and "Trippin' On a Hole in a Paper Heart" was dark, vibrant and alive. Weiland ruled the stage, and as his voice carried through the night, it was clear that STP had returned for good, better than ever. If this was in fact Weiland's Inferno, let it burn.