|Stone Temple Pilots: Big Bang At Rock The Rapids|
by Bruce Madden
Consider this fortunate bit of happenstance: I was surrounded by true Stone Temple Pilots fanatics at the second Rock The Rapids concert in Grand Rapids on August 9, 2011.
Grooving, dancing and singing along to all the songs while completely lost in the sonic moment, a few of the sincere revelers tipped toward me (admittedly a somewhat nerdy, bespectacled aging rocker) scribbling quick impressions in my shaman's notebook with concert commentary of their own. They urged me to record the truth with earnest declarations of their STP fealty: "I hope you know this is as good as what you hear on their CD, man." Or a more simple declaration: "Effin' great! Effin' great!" Who wouldn't smile at that enthusiasm shouted so sincerely in one's ear during the roar of STP rock music?
And you know what? The concert was effin' great. The stage darkened at 9:02 p.m. The light show screen behind the band exploded into pulsing blue electronic variations of Georgia O'Keefe's New Mexico skyscapes while the band blasted off and never looked back.
Surprisingly, the crowd reaction in general seemed a little sluggish at first, perhaps more interested in enjoying the festival tradition of yelling back and forth over the music, occasionally raising their plastic cups of beer and horrors-smoking.
The third song "Vaseline" finally injected an attention-getting groove into the crowd. A good general response from the audience led to "Heaven And Hotrods," featuring thick, repetitive riff pounding by guitarist Dean DeLeo.
New material can be risky in concert particularly when most concertgoers probably want to hear the hits, and STP had plenty of those to offer everyone aside from the two newest selections. The songs, "Between The Lines" and "Hickory Dichotomy" hit the crowd with a compelling freshness that did not baffle but rather elicited loud cheers equal to the responses for the more familiar material.
Stone Temple Pilots, aside from an insistent, strong instrumental pummeling during all their songs last night, excelled at creating moody slide guitar-driven interludes, with plenty of unusual vocalizing by Scott Wieland. It didn't matter whether Wieland used a megaphone or stretched his vocalizations to underscore some of the more esoteric instrumental breaks featuring the aforementioned slide work of DeLeo or his brain-twisting wah-wah pedal assaults. The very active bass thumping by Robert Deleo combined with the thrashing and pounding of drummer Eric Cretz provided solid, mesmerizing rhythm.
Wieland did not disappoint. Within a short space of time the wiry frontman was completely drenched in performance sweat. He moved around the stage, twisting and turning to the rhythm like some sort of metaphysical mutant: a union between a spaced out Tibetan monk and a devoted Sufi whirling dervish. Despite the heavy effects treatment on his vocals, Wieland managed to work those tricks to his advantage. The overall timbre of his singing voice remained rooted in his vocal cords and not trapped inside the unit running the slick delays and voice doubling. That's no easy accomplishment.
The 16-song set moved along with an occasional pause but time passed very quickly. "Big Empty," "Silver Gun Superman," "Plush," "Interstate Love Song," followed one another with the STP trademark of driving hard and fast rhythm punctuated by sharp, serrated edge guitar work. When "Big Bang" jumpstarted, the crowd was brought to peak concert arousal. "Down" and "Sex Type" pushed past the point of no return and suddenly the music stopped.
The audience seemed to be sucking in its collective breath because there was little shouting or cheering. Wieland announced, "Johnny Cash will be right up next with Nicky the chinchilla." And, the band left the stage at 10:18.
At about 10:20 the group returned and pushed into a dynamic version of "Trippin' On A Hole In A Paper Heart." The song finished, the group assembled at center state, bowed and left. The crowd realized this was indeed the end of the show and began to chant to no avail, "STP. STP. STP..." The stage remained darkened. The show was over. The crowd seemed spent and slowly departed. One thought lingered inside my head: Effin' great!
Bruce Madden is the former entertainment czar for Music Revue and founding member of the blues group The T-BONES. He is currently living in self-imposed exile at an undisclosed location, creating music and photographing subjects of interest. Photos by Paul Jendrasiak.
Published: August 10, 2011
Photos by Paul Jendrasiak:
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