The fact that this band reunited is mind-blowing enough. After seeing them pull off a 65-date tour and give the performance you’re about to experience vicariously, I’m definitely more hopeful about STP’s future than I was two months ago.
Killing two birds with one stone (starting the show off, and playing one of their best songs), STP opened their Tuesday night Hollywood Bowl set with “Big Empty,” and to say the crowd appreciated it would be a bleeding understatement. Dean DeLeo took some liberties with the slide guitar intro and solos, Scott Weiland’s smooth, even voice crept up out of the floorboards like a wisp of smoke, and trippy background stage lighting created a vibe worthy of the staple ‘90s rock band. The Hollywood Bowl is renowned for its sound projection and lighting capabilities, and Stone Temple Pilots made full use of it with stage smoke, epileptic lighting, and a huge background display hosting perfectly-timed imagery that damn well complemented the music.
From the band’s playing and the quality of Weiland’s vocals, no one would guess there was a six-year lapse behind them, or even any of the press-mucking and rehab stints to loosen their sails. Weiland was sporting his original bleached, short ‘do and signature painted-on leather pants, Dean DeLeo held the guitar rhythm and lead simultaneously with a clear, cutting sound that made every string audible, and Robert DeLeo’s backup vocals glided right under the lead, warm and dry as a dirty martini.
Standouts were “Creep,” which accomplished the album version’s lethargic melancholy via some watery guitar effects and a background effect to match, “Down,” which crushed like a thousand pounds of lead, “Sour Girl,” with nearly flawless backup vocals by Robert, and of course “Plush,” which was introduced by Weiland with, “this is the song that fucked everything up.”
The band threw off the grime of its previous hardships for a night and ripped through its megahits, throwing in occasional lesser-knowns such as “Lady Picture Show” and “Too Cool Queenie,” and giving those in attendance (and maybe some YouTubers) hope that STP can still throw punches.
Throwing a few punches of his own, Black Francis of Pixies note opened the night up for the handful of concertgoers who arrived before it got dark, raging through a lightning-short set and clearing off before anyone knew what had happened.