Stone Temple Pilots at the PNC Bank Arts Center Review 5/31/08

With all his Jagger-esque strutting, and hair streaked glowing pink, you would never have guessed that Scott Weiland was a high school football player. On the other hand, when you hear him slur incoherent song introductions it’s easy to guess that this man has had and possibly still has a drug problem. Fresh off his ousting as lead singer of Velvet Revolver, Scott Weiland joined his former band mates for a Stone Temple Pilots reunion tour. Tonight, their show stopped here in Holmdel N.J at the PNC Bank Arts Center, a dreaded venue for us locals. Parking is free, although you need to hop on a school bus that takes you all the way up the hill and through the woods to the venue. Want to take a leak? Good luck. Should’ve pissed in the woods while you were tailgating! There’s 2 sets of bathrooms and a couple of porto-johns, and each of the lines are a quarter of a mile long.

Managing to look past all the negatives about the amphitheater, it was sort of a homecoming for brothers Dean DeLeo (guitarist) and Robert DeLeo (bassist) who hail from N.J (Glen Ridge to be exact, which is still about an hour north of the PNC Bank Arts Center.) The crowd was getting anxious after the band took an hour and a half to come on stage and start their set. Trust me, you get a little stir crazy when the only entertainment you have is watching people’s inane text messages scroll across the screens. (“I brought my bong in and didn’t get caught,” “Does anyone have papers?” “Scream if you want Metallica to tour the United States,” “There is water at the bottom of the ocean,” it seemed that one person texted the entire Talking Heads Once in a Lifetime song, “Splitcase,” a band reviewed here at the Sexy Armpit and last but not least “The Sexy Armpit loves you” of course I have no idea who sent that one in…)

The concert seemed to build up steam the longer it went on. I can’t understand why they opened this show with “Big Empty.” It’s one of my favorite tracks, but it’s fairly mellow and not a good way to kick off a show. Maybe it was their plan to start off slow and ease into it. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea…I’ll keep that in mind. The band sounded great, albeit a little sluggish perhaps. Ever since their appearance on Jimmy Kimmel it seemed they were playing some of the tracks a bit slower. It’s possible they’re doing it to accommodate Weiland if his singing hasn’t been up to snuff.

Long time fans of STP would not be disappointed with their song choice. They performed all of their hits and a handful of lesser heard tracks. The set list is ever changing since their website is letting fans vote for songs they would like to hear at the specific show they’re attending. We got to hear it all from “Down,” to “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart.” I would’ve liked to have heard some of my favorites like “Hollywood Bitch,” and “Silvergun Superman,” but no such luck. Highlights for me included their classic songs like “Vasoline” and “Creep.” Not just because it’s a huge song of theirs but I think “Plush” sounded the tightest and most crisp out of all the songs performed. It was played in the middle of the setlist so it really seemed like the pinnacle of the show. I enjoyed the DeLeo brothers cover of the O’Jays “For the Love of Money.” but only wished Scott would’ve jumped in and started singing. It’s the type of song you wouldn’t expect them to play and that’s exactly why I dug it. All the shows on the tour have been wrapping with “Dead and Bloated.” Another odd choice for their only encore and last song.

Weiland is a dynamic front man but I must say, he seemed way more amped up when he was onstage with Velvet Revolver. He seemed like he was having a blast with Slash and all the rock riffs. Maybe it was the drugs? Now during this STP reunion he’s in some kind of a funk. Aside from a few steps of his Jagger dancing he seemed like he was on ambien.

There’s no question that STP made a big impact on rock music. They’ll always own their chunk of rock history but the amplifications of their reunion haven’t reached the magnitude I thought they might have. There’s a lot of fans out there, myself included, who are still pissed off about Weiland leaving Velvet Revolver. I don’t have much doubt that VR will continue on successfully but will STP? They’re working on a new CD, but shouldn’t they have released a new single to coincide with their reunion tour?

Van Halen, Madison Square Garden 11/13/07

Last night at Madison Square Garden it felt like Van Hagar never existed. Dave, Alex, Eddie, and Wolfgang joined forces to bring fans a reunion tour. I know, I know…we all loved Michael Anthony but honestly, no disrespect, but I think all 20 some odd thousand of us were jam packed into the world’s most famous arena to rekindle our romance with the classic chemistry between Diamond Dave and Eddie Van Halen. There must’ve been a huge payoff because I would’ve never known these guys ever had a modicum of animosity toward each other by watching them on stage last night. The fact that David Lee Roth and Eddie and Alex Van Halen were nowhere in sight at their own Rock Hall induction ceremony didn’t even enter my mind. For me, this concert far surpassed any acceptance speech. Van Halen relentlessly pummeled their astonished audience with classics like “Everybody Wants Some,” “So This Is Love,” and “Mean Streets.”

I desperately want to be cliche and say that I took a time machine back to ’84 and that absolutely nothing has changed with VH, but it has, and it’s kind of impressive. Eddie’s a bit older now and reminds me of David Letterman, but he’s every bit the virtuoso he always was and that’s an understatement. If you’ve never witnessed Eddie Van Halen’s guitar execution it’s literally mind blowing. So, regarding Eddie being awesome on guitar, then it’s still ’84. He made that guitar his bitch and he did things you didn’t even know were possible with a guitar! It was like he studied the ancient art of Guitarma Sutra. Diamond Dave is still the master of ceremonies and a stellar showman, so that part is still the same. He’s opted NOT to wear spandex, tassels, or rock big hair, but he’s still twirling his mic stand and doing his random patented A.D.D spin kicks. Gotta love him…after all, he IS your Ice Cream man and he’s way more ripped than you!

To feel mesmerized at a concert if you’re not high is pretty remarkable. I just stood there letting these classic VH songs that I grew up with unfold before my eyes. I did get to hear alot of these songs when Van Halen toured with Gary Cherone, but this is really what many fans have been waiting 20 years for. With “Beautiful Girls” and “Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” the band’s chemistry just felt right, and not forced at all. That’s why I find it so strange why so many writer’s and critics are spreading the opposite word around. This show was as f’n organic as the pot in the audience that was giving me a contact high. At that point, “Dance the Night Away” and “Atomic Punk” just brought me more into rock euphoria.

Although “Jaime’s Crying” sounded a bit herky-jerky, getting to hear Dave’s banter throughout the show, though minimal, was a real treat: “Don’t stick that tongue out at me unless you intend to use it hot stuff!” The pinch to let me know I was actually in ’07 came when Dave referred to a “booty call,” since that term didn’t get big until Hagar was in office.

I sensed a vibe of relief onstage. It seemed like these guys were actually having a good time and happy to finally be “wrecking the place” together again. It’s not impossible since they still retain their title of world’s greatest party band and they always do it up big and thunderous. Naturally, this monumental night was capped off by Van Halen’s most recognizable song and biggest hit, “Jump.” Let’s just say I saw enough high fiving in the row in front of me to last a lifetime.

Some highlights for me were “Panama,” “I’ll Wait,” and “Hot for Teacher.”