Stone Temple Pilots at The Rave/Eagles Ballroom
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This is what Stone Temple Pilots did not do during its concert Monday at the Rave/Eagles Ballroom: They did not appear drunk. They did not acknowledge the woman who took her top off and waved around her floppy feminine wares atop some guy’s shoulders for what seemed like 15 minutes. They did not play a good song recorded in the past 10 years. But, honestly, they did not embarrass themselves, either. Not one bit.
That might sound like hollow praise, but considering STP hit its creative peak nearly 15 years ago and recently released an underwhelming self-titled reunion record in order to fulfill a record company contractual obligation, the fact that the beleaguered grunge survivors at least kept up the appearance of having fun out there was no small feat. It was almost heartwarming when Scott Weiland—who quickly ditched an ill-fitting hooded robe that made him look like a Jedi in need of a decent tailor—playfully clowned around with guitarist Dean DeLeo’s scarf before cueing up the band’s latest single, “Between The Lines.” (It was as heartwarming as playing around with scarves can be, anyway.)
It’s too bad that the novelty of a reunited STP—this year’s Stone Temple Pilots is the band’s first record in nine years—seems to be wearing off after the massive (and massively troubled) tour of large outdoor venues two summers ago. Back then, STP headlined Marcus Amphitheater during Summerfest, but the band sounds much tighter and more together now after working away the rust (and whatever chemicals were coursing through Weiland’s system) during the recent rash of voluminous road and studio work.
The band was fit and limber playing for a packed house at Eagles Ballroom, though all the free tickets that were available outside the venue made you wonder how many people paid to get in. Predictably, the most popular numbers of the night came from STP’s 1992 debut Core, a record released during the height of grunge-mania that has proven to be at least as influential as other landmarks of the era like Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten. STP’s peers set out to deconstruct the concept of rock stardom, denouncing their materialistic, sexist predecessors and subscribing to a rigid set of politically correct guidelines for How Bands Should Properly Behave.
STP, on the other hand, was among the first bands to de-politicize grunge, making the music safe for short, angry, shirtless guys that liked the sludgy riffs but thought pro-choice broadsides were for fucking pussies. And here were are, 18 years later, and Core is still very much in keeping with what’s happening on modern-rock radio, which has long been dominated by grunge-sounding bands with a hair-metal sensibility. It’s not totally fair to lump STP in with the groups it inspired, but Core’s biggest hit “Sex Type Thing”—an anti-rape song that sounds disturbingly pro-rape once its swaggering martial stomp gets rolling—still is a thoroughly icky song to hear live when your standing among vacant-eyed dudes vigorously singing along with the “I know you want what’s on my mind” chorus.
Other slabs of STP’s big, dumb rock went down much more pleasurably, particularly deathless radio staples like “Interstate Love Song” and “Vasoline” and deep cuts from 1994’s Purple like “Still Remains” and the barnstorming “Silvergun Superman.” STP might be exhausted creatively, but when it leans on the dependably sturdy songcraft of its mid-’90s prime, the band soars ever so briefly above the sleaze.