Do rock gods still exist?
Name a band that you have seen in the last five years that secretly erased your independent, punk, boy band or hip-hop preferences as soon as you fell victim to the sheer power of their presence. A band that you yearned to trade your life with because you knew they were experiencing things you could not and would not try in your lifetime; a band that embodied the true American dream: To live a short, indulgent life free from the workforce, politics, consequences, and cares of ordinary life and full of the music, sin, religion, and alcohol that helps you get by every year. A band with a front man who will quite possibly be worshipped forever as a primal legend in times of increasing rules and regulations?
There are young cynics and bitter middle aged critics who will argue that such bands never existed and simply cannot, because in the end it’s all image, money and superficiality. Those people are jaded and perhaps overly caught up in the holsters of the 9 to 5 reality. Members of earlier generations were lucky enough to witness a couple of musicians with such charismatic force: Jimi Hendrix was a radical thinker and spiritual seeker who connected with electricity in ways no text book can describe. Led Zeppelin simply lived the life, and classic rock stations are still mining away hourly at the bottomless supply of mysticism inside Stairway to Heaven. There are other bands that might do it for you. The Doors, the Beatles, Pink Floyd with Roger Waters, perhaps even Nirvana. Add on if you wish.
If the credibility of music critics was not at stake, band breakers and journalists to search endlessly for the holy grail of rock in obscure, undiscovered acts while remaining loyal to certain cutthroat genres, maybe people would take the time to make a similar consideration for the Stone Temple Pilots. Note a “similar consideration,” meaning a comparison that is alike but not identical.
With the exception of Nirvana, it takes particular gusto to proclaim that STP are in the same league with any of the bands listed above, and it is not even worth visualizing the repercussions that would inevitably arise in using the word “all.”
This article doesn’t have, nor want that gusto. However, the band’s performance two Saturdays ago at the under attended Beyond 2002 Super Festival (of all places), hints that STP’s members possess such a trait and are willing to use the stage to carry out their debate for this elite recognition. Hindered throughout the last decade by Scott Weiland’s heroin addiction, it is a debate that can now hopefully stay on the progressive track.
On the night of April 13, when Weiland walked onto the festival’s main stage shaking maracas, wearing a black suit and white tie, his eyes highlighted with black eyeliner and his hair punked out in whitish blonde, he wasn’t just a glam-rock posterboy. The crowd viewed him with a little more awe, trying to remember why they had abandoned this band for Limp Bizkit, Nickelback or whatever disposable debris Zeta is now playing on the radio. People began to realize that this s.o.b. was possibly the last true rock star for Generations X and Y- and it was pretty clear that he was thinking the exact same thing. With the death of Alice in Chains front man Layne Staley last week, his role is even more solidified.
As bassist Robert DeLeo, decked out in a long sleeve 1970s style silk shirt, and his brother, guitarist Dean DeLeo, formed a gradual ambience around Weiland’s calm, fluid movements, it conjured images of early Pink Floyd and in fact it was. The band members teased the audience with their untapped potential as they nailed a flawless cover of Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond. They played the song as if it were their own, and it fit like a glove.
The dark-pop calling of Vasoline from 1994’s Purple followed. Weiland ran up and away from the crowd drenched in purple and white lights, distorting his expansive voice through a megaphone. This old technique didn’t resurrect the age of grunge; it simply quenched the thirst for rock by adding a sense of urgent nostalgia.
By the third song, Weiland had lost his tie and was enlightening far far away in his own musical bliss. He swayed serpent-like as Eric Kretz’s incredible drumming took control during the dark confessional tone of Big Empty. A kid in the audience sitting on his mother’s shoulders began throwing his hands out at the singer for whatever reason. Would he fondly recollect this memory to his friends 15 years from now at a house party or at a school lunch table, or perhaps even tell his own kids about the experience?
One thing that separated STP’s performance from newer rock groups was the feeling that Weiland has sacrificed himself for rock ‘n’ roll. He sang and contorted his body with unrestrained freedom and lust, and the apparent physical and emotional wear and tear from years spent in the rock life almost gave the performance a dangerous quality.
All of the drug busts and bad publicity are just part of his journey, not unlike Jim Morrison’s own obsession with death and celebrity. Weiland knows his role and has equally succumbed to and perfected it. Why deny that we want this from our rock idols, especially when they willingly want to become them? There is even less guilt and more viewer satisfaction, when, like Weiland, they simply are them.
Down from number four was soaked in such loud, climaxing hedonism that it catalyzed an undertow of beta endorphins. Girls in the audience yelled things like “yummy,” (seriously) and screamed in realization that this was the real rock experience, the one they needed to utterly seduce them. DeLeo threw out a black towel to an exhilirated topless chick, and told to their roadie that it was a backstage pass. Most rock bands and rappers are now prone to merely talking about such traditional acts of indulgence, instead of just living it out like the Rolling Stones.
Yet, the most pleasing aspects to observe were the people crowd surfing with authentic smiles on their faces and the way the audience sang along to all of STP’s songs.