WORDS BY: GERROD HARRIS
On Thursday, May 7th, Canadian Music Week showcased Scott Weiland and his newest touring outfit, The Wildabouts, who are celebrating the recent release of their debut album together, Blaster! (view my review of the album here) With the support of local Toronto acts, The Luke Austin Band and Stuck On Planet Earth, as well as British performer, Josh Beech, the Mod Club was definitely the place to be.
Taking the stage at about 7:45 was The Luke Austin Band. As up and coming locals, they had some fans in the audience who were familiar with their music, but most were new to their indie rock sound. The band was very fun to watch. I cannot count the amount of times the bassist had run to the edge of the stage, teetering forward as if he may fall off only inches away from me. With energy and the stage presence of the Chili Peppers’ Flea, he jumped around everywhere, making use of the tiny stage by often bumping into the singer and intentionally shaking and moving his mic stand when he needed it. Like I said, as an audience member, it was very entertaining, and a large part of that was because they were up there having the time of their lives. The highlight from their set, without a doubt, was when they broke into “Proud Marry” originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and later performed by Ike and Tina Turner. Rather than playing through the whole song, towards the middle, a repetitive, distinctive chord was played on the beat, pulsing forward. Immediately the audience went crazy knowing what was to come. The band adapted Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, giving the rap tune a rock vibe. After the first verse and chorus, they seamlessly transitioned back into the end of “Proud Marry”. As for their own compositions, they took the form and sound of modern Canadian indie rock, and unfortunately, for some one, like myself, who was unfamiliar with their music, it came across as repetitive as many of their songs sounded similar to the others. They ended their set with a traditional big rock ending, where the bassist did everything but smash his bass. Despite that though, The Luke Austin Band put on a great performance, and left the audience excited for what else was in store for the night.
Stemming from Woodbridge, Stuck On Planet Earth were up next, who’s performance was highly contrasting from The Luke Austin Band. This was raw, pure hard rock meets classic punk showmanship! Vocals were shared between the bassist and guitarist, who surprisingly, for such an aggressive sound, had excellent harmonies when singing together. Their sound struck a vibe in between Nirvana and the Deftones, a line they created where 1990’s grunge meets the soft metal of the same decade. Their textures were dark, and made use of distortion, dissonance, intentionally wrong sounding notes, as well as a combination of rough melodies, much like Kurt Cobain, and edgy screams, similar to Chino Moreno . Their guitarist had complete control over the stage; refusing to stand still he was jumping all over the stage while still playing excellently. Chugging fast, thick chords, or delivering interesting melodic lines, on a number of occasions he also demonstrated his tasteful ability to solo. To make things even better, the bassist and drummer locked in together perfectly, giving their songs a strong foundation. If the following acts were not so good, Stuck On Planet Earth would have stolen the show for me as they set a standard which Josh Beech would match, and would be slightly exceeded by Weiland. They made a fan out of me! It is so rare to see such raw, primal sense of energy in newer artist, ultimately transporting the Toronto crowd to what I would imagine to be a dingy punk club in 1990’s California where grunge and alternative music was taking over America. This was a heart pumping, explosive performance. After the show I purchased their Play Along EP, which like their performance I quite enjoyed. I would highly recommend checking out their music, which is available for free digitally on their website, and their live performances around the GTA.
Following Stuck On Planet Earth was the Englishman, Josh Beech. What a rockstar! Near the beginning of his set, right in the middle of the second song, a very drunk heckler pushed his way to the stage and immediately after starting flipping Beech off and loudly cursing at him. This nearly resulted in a fight in the crowd, which caused Beech to stop the song, put his guitar down, and publicly shame the heckler, challenging him to come up on stage and say what he had to say to his face. I believe he was ejected from the venue, and Beech started the song again as if he was not rudely interrupted. That is Dave Grohl level of stardom right there, like I already said, what a rockstar! As for the music, it surpassed his attitude. Delivering a rock flavor with different pop and folk elements, Beech had the voice of a British Adam Levine and was backed by a drummer and bassists who together laid down some tight grooves. This allowed for Beech to strum chords and play intricate melodies with either his mellow electric guitar, or his gentle acoustic, while belting out soulful melodies. His voice was excellent, but unlike most artists who choose to perform under their own name, his music was more than just his voice as he demonstrated at the Mod Club as he and his band played through a forty-five minute set of unique and interesting compositions, which made his set a pleasure to watch. At the end of his set, he played a upbeat rock tune, and gave the drummer a solo towards the middle, which was excellently played. After the solo, Beech jumped off the stage into the audience, who formed a circle around him as he shredded out a heavy solo. What made this better was his appreciative and humble personality, as he continuously thanked us at the end of the set and made sure to give fist bumps to those stretching out their hands at the edge of the stage. Much like the previous band, Beech had made a number of fans that night, myself included. His set showed traits of a veteran performer, making his level of artistry exceed his amount of experience.
Finally, the time had come. The sold out crowd had eagerly waited until shortly after eleven for Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts to start. The band quickly approached the stage as Weiland, slowly but comfortably walked on to a roar of applause. Although appearing dazed, his performance was unhindered. The band kicked off their set with the Stone Temple Pilots classic, “Crackerman”. However, the moment the music would start, he took on his role as the world’s greatest front man. His set consisted of a fair mix of STP songs as well as new material from his latest album, Blaster!. The Wildabouts, who recently suffered from the passing of guitarist Jeremy Brown, were accompanied by new guitarist, Nick Maybury, who fits well with the band, and is able to skillfully play the parts written by Brown as well as STP guitarist, Dean DeLeo. A major moment for him was when he went into the solo during “Meatplow” by lifting the guitar to his face and playing it with his teeth, and he still managed to make it sound good!
I had two issues with this otherwise excellent set. First of all, The Wildabouts seemed uncomfortable playing the STP songs. This is not to take away from how well they performed at all as they are a very talented group, but it was almost as if amongst themselves they felt out of place playing these songs seeing how messy things got when Weiland was kicked out of the band. Again, nothing to do with their playing as it was great, but after seeing STP twice in the past, it just did not feel the same. Weiland, of course, was completely on point, belting out the lyrics of such songs like “Dead And Bloated” (which was played almost four times as fast), and “Unglued”, while exhibiting the dance moves and control over the audience which has always made his presence so charismatic. Secondly, and this has nothing to do with Weiland, but his set was too short! This is likely because the show was part of the Canadian Music Week festival, therefore Weiland and his team had little to no choice in how long they would perform. It appeared that he hoped to make his forty-five minute set longer, as the original set list taped to the side of an amp included at least five more songs, including the mostly acoustic “Circles” and a cover of David Bowie’s “Jean Genie”. This was rather unfortunate seeing as the tickets were billed as “Scott Weiland And The Wildabouts with special guests”. I think I speak for everyone else at the concert when I say that although the opening acts were each great to watch, a longer set for Weiland would have been preferred.
Despite what is mentioned in the last paragraph, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts put on a killer performance. Although not the best time I’ve seen, it was quite enjoyable to see Weiland let loose on some classic Stone Temple Pilots songs, most notably the opening number, “Crackerman” and “Big Bang Baby” (the first time I had seen this one live), which both managed to get what seemed to be everyone in the club singing along. They also played through “Vaseline” and after the now notorious Texas gig, where Weiland truly dropped the ball on this hit, it was a relief to see it played at the level of quality it deserves. As a collective unit; however, the band really shined on the songs off of Blaster, especially “Modzilla”, the funky “Way She Moves” and sludgy “White Lightning” which all gave off a really energetic, fresh feeling which brought a natural groove, and welcomed an opportunity for improvisation. By no means was this solely a Scott Weiland show. The Wildabouts fit very organically with Weiland, and compliment his musical abilities well. The Mod Club is a perfect venue for rock concerts as it provides a more intimate setting between the artist and the fans, while also giving a better sound than some stadiums. I always hope to see some of my musical heroes in an environment like this, Weiland being one who I have now seen twice in a club, first with STP at the Kool Haus in 2009, and now at the Mod Club, which was just as exciting to see! Maybe one day he will reunite with STP, but for now he is still making great music, and putting on some kickass shows! It is good to see Weiland has found a new outlet for his performing needs. After this show, and hearing Blaster, what I have deemed to be a successful record, I look forward to the next direction Weiland takes with The Wildabouts.
Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts set list:
5: Way She Moves
6: Big Bang Baby
7: White Lightning
9: Dead And Bloated