April 25, 2002

An Upstate Love Song, Courtesy Of …

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The doors opened at 7:00; by 7:01 the race had already begun. A wave of jeans and T-shirts fought for the optimal position in Barton Hall, only inches away from the stage on which Stone Temple Pilots were to perform in just two hours.

California-based foursome Home Town Hero welcomed the crowd with singer Aaron Bruno’s energy arousing an already excited audience. The band performed several songs off of their upcoming self-titled debut, throwing demo CDs to a handful of eager concert-goers. The set included the album’s first single “Questions,” as well as a few other hard rock tracks, temporarily supplying those in attendance with the guitar-driven sound they needed to hold them over. Home Town Hero, though, played for only twenty minutes before announcing “STP is next,” and quickly left the stage.

There was silence for a moment, as roadies began setting up for the next act. Slowly, the ubiquitous chant “STP, STP” took over the growing group of people on the floor. That mantra was replaced by screaming fans as the lights were dimmed and shadowy figures appeared through the greenish smoky haze.

Clad entirely in black and a cowboy hat, STP front man Scott Weiland immediately had control of the audience as the band started off with a trippy rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” which launched flawlessly into the 1996 hit “Vaseline.” Weiland threw off his hat as the crowd roared over the sound of Dean DeLeo’s guitar. After the song ended, the singer declared that it “was nice to be back in Upstate New York,” and at this acknowledgement, cheering could be heard from the entire auditorium.

Weiland’s live vocals sounded exactly as they do on STP’s recordings, and with the DeLeo brothers (guitarist Dean and bassist Robert) and drummer Eric Kretz, the band was able to command Barton Hall with their heaviest hits. Holding a megaphone between his mouth and the microphone, Weiland increased the volume of “Crackerman” and “Dead and Bloated” while fans went wild.

The first few songs did more than just please the crowd; they proved wrong anyone who doubted that Stone Temple Pilots could still rock after nearly ten years of fame, criticism, and numerous tribulations. Beginning in 1992 with the band’s first release Core, critics condemned the group as nothing but a rip-off of Seattle grunge bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. With each of their following CDs, and a string of hits, STP established themselves as one of the dominant forces in alternative rock, while other groups rose to popularity and subsequently faded out. As the night progressed, the band’s power and raw talent served to demonstrate why this is true.

Stripping from his black button-down shirt, Weiland picked up an acoustic guitar and performed a short cover of T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong” before transitioning into “Pretty Penny,” from 1994’s Purple. The set also included unplugged versions of “Sour Girl” and “Creep,” both of which further displayed the band’s musical abilities. STP has no use for the vocal distortions and electronically produced music common today — they’re a real rock band.

Of course, being a real rock band usually means being able to pander to the audience. During “Lounge Fly,” the tattooed, sweaty singer’s cry of “do you need me?” drew responses from more than a few female fans. Similar shrieks were heard each time Weiland moved to either side of the stage, while hands strained to reach him. Several fans lunged into the mass of people when the frontman tossed his white towel to avid onlookers. The pushing, shoving, and sporadic crowd-surfing allowed those once farther back to get closer to the band before being carried off by security.

“Big Bang Baby,” off the 1996 album Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop, and a track rarely ever performed live, heralded in a continuous set of STP’s radio successes. “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart” prepared audience members for the onslaught of hard rock to come. Loud cheering nearly drowned out the beginning chords of “Interstate Love Song,” as fans began lip-synching the words that they knew. During “Plush,” from the 1992 debut Core, Weiland held his microphone out to the excited crowd, urging them to sing the first few lines of the chorus, “And I feel it/ Where you going for tomorrow?/ Where you going with that mask I found?” along with him. Once again, STP’s ability to replicate the lush, heavy sound found on their CDs was amazing. In a time when many popular music acts choose to put on a flashy show while playing nothing but a recording of their songs, Weiland proved that he and his bandmates possess talent that places them far above other recent chart-topping musicians.

Ear-splitting energy started off “Down,” from the band’s 1999 release No. 4. Weiland’s shouts of “I’ve been waiting for my Sunday girl/ Won’t you follow me down now?” roused the congregation of fans, ultimately leading to more screams, bodies being passed over the crowd, and six-foot males pushing aside much smaller girls since, apparently, they couldn’t see over their heads.

A hushed calm fell over Barton Hall as the stage went dark for a minute, and the frontman disappeared from sight. There were a few murmurs of “STP!” for the second time during the night, as the DeLeo brothers and Kretz performed a thunderous cover of Led Zeppelin’s guitar-and-drum solo “Moby Dick.” Some younger STP fans looked at each other with confused expressions upon their faces, while college-aged and older followers immediately recognized this tribute to one of Stone Temple Pilots’ greatest influences.

Megaphone back in hand, Weiland stepped up to the front of the stage, his presence instantaneously attracting all attention in the room. “Here I come,” he repeated as the band began to pound out “Sex Type Thing.” The song, possibly STP’s best-known song and their first single ever, was the spark that ignited the already euphoric crowd. Weiland covered just about everywhere possible on stage, declaring, “I know you want what’s on my mind/ I know you like what’s on my mind,” amidst crunching guitar riffs. As the song came to a close, the auditorium was filled with the sound of feedback that mimicked wailing police sirens while red and blue lights flashed and then vanished.

As Barton Hall lit up, people slowly began to stream out of its doors. The crowd seemed disappointed that the set had not been longer, but was happy nonetheless. STP played a show that not only included their big radio hits and songs from their 2001 endeavor Shangri La Dee Da, but lesser known tracks that had seldom been heard live ever before. This satisfied hardcore fans as well as those audience members who only had heard the band’s more popular material.

Scott Weiland and Co. put on a concert that showed why they became one of the more famous bands of the nineties, and why their popularity continues to grow even today. And as Cornell students file into Barton Hall for Biology and Chemistry finals, knowing STP played there won’t make concentrating on tests any easier.

Archived article by Ariel Ronneburger