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?

Book Review: Slash with Anthony Bozza

For a guy like me with an undeniable case of undiagnosed A.D.D, it’s an almost unattainable task to finish reading an entire book. Comic books are fine with me because their brevity in the word department and generosity with images make it feasible for me to run through maybe 2 or even 3 at a time if I am feeling saucy.

I’m a big fan of autobiographies. Learning about my favorite celebrities or icons is interesting because it’s coming straight from the source rather than a tabloid, old myth, or Internet rumor. Having read books like Motley Crue: The Dirt, and David Lee Roth’s Crazy From the Heat, I was immediately seduced when I heard Velvet Revolver’s Slash was writing an autobiography.

Being a huge fan of Guns N Roses from their inception, I was always curious to know more about the truth behind their various controversies. MTV news barely scratched the surface at that time, releasing only punches of information. “Hello this is Kurt Loder with MTV news, while my manner of speech is inexplicably dull and boring, what happened with Axl Rose last night isn’t. He beat a fan in the audience at a concert because he was videotaping the show.” If knowing more of the legend and lore regarding the badass bunch of guys that GNR were in the ’80s then you’ll appreciate Slash’s book.

What I found most amazing in “Slash,” is that his heart and soul lie within his love of playing guitar. So many musicians get into music because they just “thought it was cool” or “wanted to get laid.” In Slash’s instance he has this snake charmer relationship with his guitar. His devotion to playing and his enthusiasm for the techniques that he has developed over the years is the most interesting revelation in the book. Of course it was fun to hear about all of the drugs and the sexual romps that went on, but finding out that Slash is way more than just a guitarist only added to his appeal as a rock icon.

In today’s musical climate, it’s been harder to see music as an art form. With bands like Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco, and even Daughtry who had Slash guest on his album, it’s easy to see that corporate “sure things” are what gets the push and the radio play. Playing guitar on the level that Slash does, where he almost merges with the instrument, that kind of sorcery just isn’t appreciated anymore.

Slash explains thoroughly his life from his youth and family issues, all the way to the present time with his latest band, the saviors of rock Velvet Revolver. Slash thought he was going to be a BMX racer until he fell in love with the guitar. He discusses which bands and players inspired him while he also describes the first time he heard certain legendary rock albums. That’s the type of stuff I find interesting. Some people might find those minuscule details irrelevant and they would rather skip to the part where Axl walks off the stage, but I’d rather hear the romance between Slash and his discovery of guitar.

With his persona being bigger than life, almost a caricature, it’s easy to forget that he’s one of rock’s all time best and most versatile guitarists. Learning about the process of how Appetite for Destruction was recorded, and how the band would get together and write songs was the juicy stuff for me. If you ever thought that Slash would just go in and record with the band it’s not like that at all. Slash has his own methods that are pretty damn cool and helped his signature sound stand apart from the rest especially at a time when there was no originality and you couldn’t tell Britney Fox from Nitro.

Although he’s careful not to go into detail or lambaste Axl, Slash feels that he’s one of the only people that can talk about Axl. Even though they have barely been on speaking terms for several years Slash still comes off like he has a brotherly relationship with Axl. He seems like he’s still protective of him. It was that gang type of mentality that played a huge role in their success. Slash reveals that once that dynamic started to crumble Guns was never the same. Possibly one of the more telling ideas that came up more than once was a common thread among Guns. It was their persistence in being the anti-hairband which lent a major hand in their success at the time. Something tells me that their anti-hairband attitude had a lot to do with why Slash is still popular today and enough in demand to sell a ton of copies of his own autobiography. Does Erik Turner “warrant” his own autobiography?

“Slash” made for a most satisfying reading experience. You can tell that Slash didn’t embellish or tell sensational stories just to make the book entertaining. Sure he described crazy times but the routine moments were just as good because it’s interesting to read about Slash being in those instances and how everything is different when seen through a celebrities eyes. Certain parts of the book are damn funny, and other’s tell the story of a eccentric, drug addicted, rocker. Before you pick this one up, it helps to have or have had an interest in rock music, or Guns N Roses to enjoy “Slash.”

Live Review: Velvet Revolver at the Borgata in Atlantic City, N.J 8.25.2007

In 2003, Velvet Revolver released Set Me Free on the Incredible Hulk Soundtrack, and since then I was completely sold. After the release of their first album Contraband, It blew my mind how a band could be exactly what I was craving for so long. Mixing Scott Weiland from STP, the former GNR guys, and Dave Kushner from Wasted Youth, it was a winning combo. Scott brought the flair while the band incorporated the straightforward rock and roll. Contraband sold tons of records and their follow up Libertad, sounds nothing like what a follow up usually does. The album was produced by Brendan O’Brien and prominently features the signature hard rock sound of the STP/GNR mash up.

Witnessing the power and musicianship of Velvet Revolver in concert was unbelievable. On Saturday August 25th, VR opened fire at the Borgata in Atlantic City with a couple of rocking new songs from Libertad including Let It Roll, and She Mine. From there, Velvet Revolver blasted through their set with some tracks from Contraband like Sucker Train Blues, Do it For The Kids, and the awesome Superhuman. Slash never loses his touch, and he proved it by shredding on She Builds Quick Machines, the first single they released from Libertad. Do any of you ever feel inadequate, sort of like the Wayne and Garth “We’re not worthy” chant? That’s how I felt when Slash played his guitar behind his head.

Recently I read an article with members of VR where they claimed they wouldn’t be doing too many GNR or STP songs on this tour. Boy was I excited when I found out they were lying! They incorporated three songs from each of their respective former bands. I flipped when they played STP’s Vasoline, Interstate Love Song, and Sex Type Thing. And I completley freaked out when I heard the intro’s to GNR’s Patience, It’s so Easy, and one of my all time favorite songs Mr. Brownstone. Regardless of the trash talking between Velvet Revolver and Axl’s present form of GNR, Scot Weiland pays a helluva tribute to Axl when they’re performing these songs. He sounds so much like him, you get the impression that he loves the music GNR created.

I could’ve done without the cover of Pink Floyd’s downer Wish You Were Here, but that would be my only complaint. As if they really needed to, Velvet Revolver yet again won over all the fans in attendance that night. They play like they have something to prove and that’s the mark of a kick-ass rock band. VR sent us home with Slither, and I went home with a horrible case of rock neck.