What did I expect, right? Once again, I was suckered into forking over greenbacks to the worst venue in the United States. Go figure: the night before the ill-fated Eagles Ballroom show, Weiland stumbles right off the stage in Iowa and breaks his heel. That’s one way for a junkie to get his hands on some drugs. Just conjecture, but whether he was hopped up on painkillers or not, the dude was hammered. I can’t be certain he was entirely to blame for the multitude of mistakes, but despite some really great moments, the whole experience left a sour taste in my mouth, and it wasn’t just the eight-dollar MGDs.
I got my first drink at the downstairs
bar. Minutes later, I noticed that it was dribbling onto the floor.
"There's a hole in my cup," I told the bartender. "I need a new drink."
With a look of belligerent disdain, she grabbed my half-empty thimble
of SoCo and Coke and slid it into an empty, handed it back. "What about
the five bucks that just drained onto the floor?" I bitched, but she
was already onto more important things. This is the attitude that comes
from bartending at an establishment where the drinks are so expensive
and small, nobody tips. The assholes who operate The Rave seem to have
one goal: make everyone in the building unhappy.
So, that was a bad sign. Enter Stone Temple Pilots. Somebody missed a beat within the first few seconds of the opener, "Vaseline", but the band readjusted admirably; I foolishly took this as a good sign. As expected, the sound was godawful. You could barely make out Weiland's words the whole night, whether he was singing or talking, and not just because he was a slurry mess.
I couldn't complain about "Crackerman" or "Wicked Garden"; the band seemed to be in fine form. A couple of new songs followed, but it's hard to really trust a first impression when it originates in this shithole echo chamber. By "Big Empty", I was pretty much sold; it still seemed slow and drunken, but that's the nature of the song, and it's such a good song. But then, "Sour Girl"; this one is clearly Weiland's fault, and while the song isn't ruined, it's tough to believe that a sober man would completely botch the words to one of his most beloved songs, over and over.
The next fifteen minutes or so was pure gold. "Creep" was actually haunting, and "Plush" was fucking glorious; the band dropped into way-low gear for the final chorus to let the audience go nuts, and it felt fantastic. "Interstate Love Song" is just a perfect pop song that I will never, ever get sick of hearing, and there was a period of months (if not years) when I probably heard it three times a day. Two more new songs next, the latter of which, "Huckleberry Crumble", crackled through the murk and sounded like a great song.
Then the wheels came off. "Sex Type Thing" started out in perfect ferocity, and indeed, I give lots of credit to the DeLeos and Eric Kretz for the massive quantities of energy they threw off that stage all night. But Weiland was coming unglued, and rather than the awesome sped-up ending, they just sort of ended it, as if they didn't realize it was coming. Weird. "Dead And Bloated" was about the most pathetic thing I've ever witnessed outside of Coventry. It was tough to ascertain what exactly was going on, but it was clear that after the first bridge, Weiland was a couple beats behind and everybody was playing a different section of the song. Kretz almost heroically resurrected the thing, but it collapsed again almost immediately, Weiland moaning some lyrics, seemingly oblivious to what had just occurred. Dean grabbed his acoustic guitar for "The Lounge Fly", but it was all over for Weiland; he was on another planet, and after the horrendous first chorus, the DeLeos walked offstage in disgust. Incredibly, Weiland persisted, even after Kretz bailed; it took a few seconds for the singer to realize he was alone up there and quickly stumble off without a word in the opposite direction of everybody else.
I couldn't believe they had the balls to attempt an encore. Weiland mumbled something about "Piece Of Pie", which Dean apparently vetoed. "Trippin' On A Hole In A Paper Heart" was what we got, and that was it, about an hour and ten minutes of total music. The crowd was dazed. It took another twenty minutes or so to funnel us all down the stairs. To say that I felt ripped off is an understatement, but other circumstances surrounding this event cast an even shittier light on this STP charade.
I figured that they would have played several more songs had they not imploded, but it turns out that this is the extent of the setlist for every show on the tour, barring the canceled "Piece Of Pie". The band has this feature on its website where you can "build a setlist" for whichever shows you choose. The assumption is that the top vote-getters will make it into the set for that show--keep dreaming. This band has an eighteen-song repertoire, folks, and you ain't getting your "Army Ants".
Looking back, I just kick myself for having expectations. After all, Weiland recorded his contributions to the forthcoming self-titled album completely separate from the rest of the band; why did I think I'd see a well-oiled machine making a triumphant comeback? Maybe because the band was amazing in 1994, and even better in 1997; after that, I figured I would see them every chance I got. Then came 2000, "the massacre", a clearly clueless Weiland prancing around the stage draped in an American flag after phoning in his greatest hits. That should have been the end. I guess most true fans gave up long ago on hearing even a couple of choice album cuts, so it's no wonder that STP is relegated to playing little shithole venues full of drunken alt-rock radio groupies bent on nostalgia. I feel like an idiot for hoping that the DeLeos were actually in this for the fans, or that Weiland could keep it together for more than a handful of dates. This isn't a band; it's a tenuous money-grab from four has-beens that couldn't deviate from the prescribed top-40 setlist no matter how much you paid them. They won't get another dime from me.
I knew it was fake.