All cheekbones, skinny legs, and suavity, Scott Weiland took to the stage windmilling his trademark megaphone like Pete Townshend on guitar. Though he kicked off the show with Stone Temple Pilots’ propulsive 1992 song “Crackerman,” with a forthcoming solo album, Blaster, and a new-ish band, the hip-looking, strong-playing Wildabouts, Weiland made sure the order of the night was showcasing new tunes.
“Modzilla,” the winning “Amethyst” — with the backing vocals of bassist Tommy Black filling out the sound nicely — and self-admitted T. Rex–influenced first single “Way She Moves,” with its propulsive bubblegum beat, meshed well with the smattering of STP hits performed in the thirteen-song set.
While Weiland was and remains a compelling frontman and a stylish, strong singer, having led both STP and Velvet Revolver with panache, he’s also oddly, coolly (intentionally?) removed, prompting one fan to comment, “He’s just, like, going through the motions.” Still, the crowd, not quite filling the 500-ish-capacity Gramercy Theatre, gave some love, with one moment in particular occasioning the only genuine crack in Weiland’s debonair persona. During a lull before launching into STP’s “Meatplow,” an audience member screamed, “Scott, we still love you, baby!” Having coaxed a grin from the singer, the crowd gave back in kind with wildly raised hands.
It was an emotional high point in a show that was technically apt but emotionally void. It can be an uphill battle playing new songs to an audience that has never heard them; still, the layered “Parachute” and “White Lightning” went over especially well. And while it’s likewise inevitable that talented guitarist Jeremy Brown and bassist Black will be compared to STP stalwarts and beloved brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo (guitar and bass, respectively), the Wildabouts more than hold their own.
But there was a certain je ne sais quoi lacking. The dynamics, even on compelling hits like STP’s “Vasoline” and the oft-covered Bowie gem “Jean Genie,” were subpar. On all counts — the songs, Weiland, the band — the Gramercy show wasn’t as rousing as it could or should have been for a lineup of this caliber and a singer of Weiland’s talent and pedigree. A sped-up “Dead and Bloated” closed out a set that was a mere hour long, and with a bow and salute, Weiland left the stage.
He returned to perform, seated on the drum riser, a stripped-down, quietly groovy new tune known as “Circles.” It was a strong song, and well done, but an anticlimactic encore. If the short set left the audience wanting more, what Weiland and his Wildabouts did deliver would have benefited from a busting-through of the seeming “fourth wall,” allowing Weiland to connect to the crowd in a genuine, genial way, helping to make even a too-brief performance more memorable.