"So this is the first show of our tour," Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland told the sold-out crowd at Los Angeles' House of Blues during the inaugural St. Jude Rock'n'Roll Hope Show, a new event to raise funds for children's cancer research. "Ready or not," he continued. "Ready or not."
Coming from the larger-than-life frontman of an alternative rock institution, it was a nicely humanizing statement. It was also totally unnecessary. Having already played four songs flawlessly -- "Silver Gun Superman," "Vaseline," and "Big Empty" from the group's 1994 album Purple and "Wicked Garden" from 1992's Core -- Stone Temple Pilots were more than ready.
Earlier, taking the stage to a chorus of "S-T-P! S-T-P!" the band seemed calm and collected, sober and sane -- a polar opposite from the days when Weiland's drug use and subsequent arrests hamstrung the band's progress. With a lit cigarette dangling in his mouth, Weiland was perhaps a bit out of touch with the charity event's anti-cancer theme. But with an iconoclastic cool oozing from his Beatle boots right through to his Hitler hairdo, he clearly wasn't trying to fit in.
Performing a generous 18-song set, the band stuck to the hits and played 'em with a ridiculous display of talent.
Guitarist Dean DeLeo was the envy of every Guitar Center flunkie in the house, tossing one metal riff after another into the air, while switching seamlessly from slide guitar to fretted chords on "Big Empty," and working his usual technical wizardry into every note.
Robert DeLeo, the band's chief songwriter, tackled both bass and acoustic guitar on "Lounge Fly," and pulled off the uber-busy bass line on the Tiny Music... standout "Trippin on a Hole in a Paper Heart" perfectly all while sweetening the vocal lines with pitch-perfect harmonies.
Meanwhile, the show's star, Weiland, sang the old melodies with a little extra soul. Still, he wasn't one to be selfish about it. Holding out his microphone, he let the audience take over as lead vocalist on the final chorus of the group's mainstream breakthrough "Plush."
Like the fans, the singer was clearly enjoying himself. "These are all songs we haven't played in a long time," he said. "If it's half as much fun for you as it is for us, then we're doing pretty good."
Pretty good, indeed.
The lone complaint: The band -- which has spent the last several months working on an album with famed producer Don Was -- didn't play any of its new songs.
Talking to SPIN.com after the show, guitarist Dean DeLeo addressed the new album by saying, "It's just not quite ready yet."
"But soon," he added with a twinkle in his eye. "Soon!"