Stone Temple Pilots
Nov. 14, 2017
Last week, word trickled out that Stone Temple Pilots, following a devastating period in which both their former lead singers died less than two years apart, would perform at the Troubadour for SiriusXM listeners. Outside of an interview with bassist Robert DeLeo, who said that the band was working with an unnamed new singer, there was little information about how the ’90s post-grunge outfit would move forward. Rumors ran rampant over who would replace the iconic Scott Weiland and his substitute, Chester Bennington. Whoever it was, the mystery singer would need to have chutzpah and a bombastic personality to maintain the band's legacy.
A few hours before Robert, his guitarist brother Dean DeLeo and longtime drummer Eric Kretz hit the stage, fans’ suspicions were confirmed. Jeff Gutt, who rose to fame on The X Factor and with hard-rock outfits Dry Cell and Rival City, was revealed as the new singer on a SiriusXM preshow broadcast. Though anticlimactic in some regards — many fans would have preferred for the big reveal to manifest itself onstage rather than on-air — it didn’t detract from the evening’s festivities.
Outside the venue, excited contest winners debated whether any American rock band has ever had a successful third act, and wondered whether STP had plans to move forward or would become a glorified cover band. They had good reason to be skeptical. The best-known attempt to defy the odds and find success with a third lead singer was Van Halen — and as Gary Cherone himself would attest, that didn’t work out too well. Van Halen retreated back to Sammy Hagar before finally burying the hatchet with David Lee Roth — but under STP's tragic circumstances, they don't have the luxury of reconciliation.
As word of Gutt’s surprising inclusion reached the crowd inside the Troubadour, who were otherwise cut off from the outside world (fans were forced to put their phones in those ridiculous pouches that make it impossible to access the internet or take photos), it didn’t take away from the sense of anticipation. Following the entrance of Kretz and the DeLeos, the moment of the big reveal came as Gutt burst onto the stage with “Down,” which as any STP fan knows begins with the lyric, “Pleased to meet you.”
Sporting oversized sunglasses and a “Hello My Name Is Jeff” sticker on his black button-down shirt, Gutt, with his spiky, bleached blond hair, bears more of a physical resemblance to Sum 41's Deryck Whibley than to Weiland. His booming lower-register vocals, however, fit in well with the band's sound. With his son looking down from the balcony, Gutt led the band through a 13-song, 80-minute set, long enough to allow folks to get lost in the band’s nostalgia and become familiar with Gutt in his new role. The singer dedicated a spirited version of “Vasoline” to Weiland, and the band plowed through a slew of the band’s greatest hits, with only a few omissions.
New singer aside, it was the band’s first show in 18 months, and there was some rust that needed to be shaken off. A rough start to “Interstate Love Song” and a clunky, slowed-down version of “Plush” were head scratchers — but for his part, Gutt was more than up to the task of replacing his more heralded predecessors.
The lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots was, for a moment, one of the most important roles in all of rock. Having first seen the band perform on their Tiny Music tour in 1996, I couldn't help but compare Gutt to Weiland. Replacing any singer of a historically important band is a thankless task, but Weiland’s oversized, megaphone-wielding, magnetic presence presents an especially overwhelming challenge for any singer, no matter how talented.
But for the most part, Gutt shined. His harder-edged vocals served him well on songs such as “Coma,” “Big Empty” and “Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart.” He was helped by a sterling performance by the always reliable Robert DeLeo, who is easily one of the best bassists in rock and a wildly underrated vocal harmonizer. DeLeo was the lynchpin that steadied the band through their rough patches and served as the calming influence on his bandmates.
Most of the songs were familiar to fans, but the quartet did unveil a new song, “Meadow,” which hits airwaves today. The song is exactly what you’d expect from STP in 2017: a midtempo rocker that allows Gutt to shine without being saddled by the band’s glorious past. This was easily the singer’s most comfortable moment of the night. Don't be surprised to hear this become a staple on mainstream rock radio for the foreseeable future.
As the show wound down, Wayne Kramer of The MC5 joined the new STP for a stirring cover of his band’s “Kick Out the Jams,” which got fans excited ahead of the set's finale, which included “Sex Type Thing” (a song about the horrors of date rape that feels as timely as ever) and “Piece of the Pie” and left the band looking both exhausted and relieved that they survived their first night in front of an audience relatively unscathed.
As they took a bow for the first time with their new singer to roars of “STP! STP!” from the supportive crowd, the third incarnation of Stone Temple Pilots still had much work to do if they aren't going to become a mere footnote in the band's storied history. Until more new songs are released, Stone Temple Pilots will be forever remembered more for Scott Weiland than for anything else. But if the band’s first night was any indication of what’s to come, STP 3.0 has room for growth while giving fans what they want and staying true to the band’s DNA.
Set list below.
Interstate Love Song
Kick Out the Jams (MC5 cover)
Sex Type Thing
Trippin' on a Hole in a Paper Heart
Piece of Pie