Our Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Of the grunge trinity – Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots – STP has always been the band that is totally about straightforward, no bullshit rock and roll. That’s not to say that the other two bands weren’t able to go full throttle but, in Nirvana’s case, the music became secondary to the iconic (and now divine martyr) Kurt Cobain. And while Pearl Jam’s “Ten” will be one of the best debut albums of all time, subsequent releases became more Eddie Vedder-centric and increasingly more tepid.
Of course, it would have been very easy for STP’s musical career to become completely overshadowed by the chaotic self-destructive force of nature that is lead vocalist Scott Weiland. His drug and alcohol addictions are notorious and, because of them, the history of Stone Temple Pilots is riddled with stops and starts as Weiland exited and reentered the band – sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not. The odds were against them but, despite this, they’re somehow still on the scene and producing songs that are every bit as powerful as the ones from their debut album 20 years ago. Their story is a “Behind the Music” documentarian’s wet dream – second only to Def Leppard’s.
Just as their 2010 eponymously-titled sixth studio album proves that they can cut tracks that rival the classics from their heyday, “Stone Temple Pilots: Alive in the Windy City” shows that they are still a band that, to quote Donald “Duck” Dunn from “The Blues Brothers” film, can “turn goat piss into gasoline.” They’re a fierce act – one that would probably cause any Bieberhead in the crowd to spontaneously combust.
“Windy City” captures the newly-reformed band in a March 2010 gig at the Rivera Theatre in Chicago. They don’t waste any time with pleasantries or introductions but, instead, launch into a devastating performance of “Vasoline”. Weiland doesn’t greet the crowd until three songs in when he introduces the song “Hollywood Bitch”, one of four tracks from their latest album. He’s got a somewhat unsettling stage persona: one that makes one wonder if he’s really kicked his multiple bad habits or is in remission – but he’s on all thrusters and in peak form when they launch into the track and the 14 remaining tracks.
Unfortunately, the visual aspect of the DVD isn’t nearly as stupendous as the music. Simply put, STP just isn’t that interesting to watch. Except for Weiland’s swagger filled with stagger, his trio of band mates is pretty stationary throughout the entire show. While abstract patterns are projected onto a backing screen, the cameras bob and weave and the editing cuts quickly to the measures of the songs. It’s pretty cut-and-dry stuff that would probably be yawn-inducing if the tunes weren’t the grungy gems that they are.
The audio – selectable between Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround – is excellent and the 16:9 widescreen picture is clean and crisp. A fairly brief interview with the band members is included as the sole bonus feature and makes up for the lack of any liner notes in the 4-page booklet that’s tucked away with the disc. It’s not an especially engaging, though, as the questions are largely boiler-plate (“What inspires you to write a song?”, “What bands inspire you?”, “Are you excited about the upcoming tour?” and the like) as are the band’s responses – except for when guitarist Dean DeLeo expresses his belief that the band “still plays too loud.” Regardless, if “Stone Temple Pilots: Alive in the Windy City” is a barometer as to the future of STP, it should be a rather plush – albeit noisy – one.