Photos and review by: Jason Robey
Phoenix, AZ — Stone Temple Pilots returned to the road this week, with a new vocalist and new album days away from release. The tour, which kicked off with three shows in their home state of California and a night in Las Vegas, made a stop in Phoenix Saturday night, at the Marquee Theatre, to a packed house of enthusiastic fans, hungry for the band’s return.
The evening kicked off with a half-hour set by The Dirty Hooks, from Las Vegas. The three-piece hard rock group got the crowd warmed up quickly, playing a handful of songs from their debut, Electric Grit, as well as their next album, slated for a May release. This tour marks the first time the band has played outside of their hometown of Las Vegas, after connecting with Stone Temple Pilots via a Twitter message, asking only to open the Vegas date on the tour. Vocalist/drummer Janine Call sang from a sideways-facing drum kit, close to the front of the stage, while guitarists Bobby McCall and Anthony Ratto rocked their way through the short-but-sweet time on stage.
After a short break, Stone Temple Pilots took the stage, to the sounds of their 1992 classic, “Wicked Garden,” followed quickly by a wall of familiar feedback, leading into the iconic riff of one of their biggest hits, “Vasoline.” This was only the beginning of 90 minutes of a crowd-pleasing selection of some of the band’s best-known songs, as well as a few from the upcoming album, their third to be officially self-titled, out one week later.
This tour is also the introduction to Jeff Gutt, the group’s new frontman, replacing the charismatic Scott Weiland, who died two years ago, and Chester Bennington, who filled in for a tour, before passing away last year. Though it’s impossible to avoid comparisons to a legendary band-leader like Weiland, Gutt brought an energy that was all his own, fitting the center spot on the stage perfectly. Vocally, his range was spot-on with every song the band played. The set included two very promising songs from the upcoming release, “Meadow,” which was released as a single a few months ago, and “Roll Me Under.”
Besides the radio favorites, the band also dug deeper into their catalog, pulling out previously rare live songs, like “Glide,” from the 2000 album, No. 4, and the 2001 track “Regeneration,” from Shangri-La Dee Da. The set largely consisted of the band’s heavier and faster tunes, a testament to their revitalized energy, taking only a few chances to slow down, on songs like “Atlanta,” and the mega-hit, “Big Empty,” from The Crow soundtrack.
The DeLeo brothers, Dean (guitar) and Robert (bass), along with drummer Eric Kretz, plowed through the evening with an excitement normally seen from a band early in their career. Dean DeLeo stepped to the mic to dedicate a reworked and heartfelt version of their 1992 breakthrough hit, “Plush,” from their debut album, Core. The awe-inspiring take on the grunge classic brought chills to the crowd, as Gutt turned the mic towards the house for one of the best-known bridges of the 90s, “when the dogs they find her, got time, time to wait for tomorrow, to find it.”
The one bump in an otherwise smooth trip back to the public eye was a literal show-stopper, when the band cut “Still Remains” after the second verse to stop a fight in front of the stage. Dean pointed out the irony that they were playing a love song, before taking a second stab at the song. After “Trippin’ On a Hole In a Paper Heart,” from 1996’s Tiny Music…Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop, they took a short break, met with a classic, thunderous encore chant from the sold-out audience. They returned with a two-song encore of “Down,” and “Piece of Pie,” before taking a bow at center stage, to the sounds of a crowd, happy to have the band back on stage.
Catch Stone Temple Pilots, with The Dirty Hooks, on tour through the end of March, with more dates filling in over the summer.