It was nearing 10:45. Doors had opened almost an hour earlier and the Jimmy Kimmel Live camera crews were coercing sound-bites from the crowds, but after the fourth or fifth call for "30 more seconds of applause guys," a hail of boos sent the team packing. It was clear this would be the last bit of crowd cooperation until Stone Temple Pilots took the stage at New York's intimate Gramercy Theater.
But given the group's rocky history, some members of the 600-plus audience knew all too well how some STP shows can end up. At last, dimmed lights ensured there was nothing to dread and the grunge gods made their entry to the familiar roar of "STP! STP!"
The Pilots opened with their 1994 single "Vaseline," followed by "Wicked Garden" off their debut album 'Core.' The once-troubled Scott Weiland looked sharp, even dapper in shades, a thin tie and blazer complete with pocket square. By the third song, "Crackerman," he was complementing the jacket with a megaphone, a look that only President Obama and a few others have been able to pull off.
Shaking off a few years of rust, Weiland still seemed to be more than up to his old tricks, mounting the risers for plenty of crowd panning gyrations and wrestling with his mic stand as if it itself were attempting to upstage him. Even so, the boys admitted that their time away has left them a bit over their fighting weights, prompting them to convene for a quick breather after an impassioned slide-guitar solo by Dean DeLeo closed their new track "Hickory Dichotomy."
"A three month tour doing five shows a week gets you in kind of marathon shape, but first show back, especially in a sweaty little club" said now 42-year-old Weiland with a winded laugh, "you know we're not 25 anymore."
Perhaps deservingly, the guys let their own dizzy heads settle with "Big Empty," a definite crowd pleaser whose foreboding verses evolved into a slow-grinding, psychedelic jam. Jimmy Kimmel banners fell in the background as they broke into "Sour Girl," where arena reverb brought an ethereal quality to Dean's solo. A standout performance of "Creep" followed, its haunting pre-chorus backed by shimmering humbucker twang.
"Here's another song from our brand new album," Weiland said, provoking a collective chuckle when he added "by the way, it's called Stone Temple Pilots." But the song that followed was hardly new, as the band pulled a bait and switch with their Grammy-winning 1993 single "Plush."
Stone Temple Pilots struck a great balance between exposing new tracks and leaving room for past hits with a career-spanning set that included mostly singles with tracks from every album, save 2001's "Shangri-La Dee Da." STP even worked in a few surprises, including their less commercially successful 1997 single "Tumble in the Rough," which they introduced with saying, "we haven't played this song in a long, long time, but it's always been a crowd favorite…so here you go."
They closed the 90-minute set with "Tripping On a Hole in a Paper Heart" before jettisoning a few t-shirts and a drumhead to a few lucky fans and taking a well-deserved, if very sweaty bow.
"Ladies and gentleman," Weiland said nearing the end with the gentle tone of a maître d' "How is your steak?" All dining preferences aside, a final raucous chorus of "STP!" conceded that the only answer was "well done."
Between the Lines
Interstate Love Song
Tumble In the Rough
Sex Type Thing
Dead and Bloated
Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart