Words By : Gerrod Harris
As the drummer from One In The Chamber, a local Toronto band whom were the first on the bill at the Scott Wieland and The Wildabouts show at Adelaide Hall on December 1st, I felt it was a conflict of interest to review the show. Seeing now that Weiland has passed away as of December 3rd, at the age of 48, it seems like the right thing to do: to reflect on his career and his final performance. To keep my journalistic integrity intact all I shall say about the local supporting bands (One In The Chamber, Darkstone Crowes, The Road Heavy, and Fallen Heirs) is that they each put on excellent performances which were received well by the crowd.
Walking onto stage in a slightly casual, yet dapper, grey suit and tie, Weiland stood in front of the packed club, taking a moment to soak in their cheers before stating “why don’t you put your phones down and enjoy the moment”. Among even louder cheers and slight laughter as many people put their phones away, Weiland and The Wildabouts jumped into the very ferocious Stone Temple Pilots’ classic, “Cracker Man”. Megaphone and all, Weiland blasted through the song with much energy in his actions and strength in his voice. His set was roughly split in half between songs from his first solo record with The Wildabouts, 2015’s Blaster, and STP material, with the addition of David Bowie’s “The Jean Genie”. Other highlights from Blaster included the opening track, “Modzilla”, the groovy “Way She Moves”, and the grungy yet bluesy “White Lightning”. While those were all performed excellently, the show stopping moments often lied in songs like “Vasoline”, “Big Bang Baby”, “Big Empty”, “Dead And Bloated”, and “Unglued”. Much like myself, I am sure many fans’ voices were more than a tad hoarse following a set like this. Weiland, in all the times I’ve seen him (twice with STP, and twice as a solo act), has proved time and time again to be not just one of my favorite vocalists, but my favorite frontman to watch; he simply oozes charisma. No one can carry a tune like him, nor will anyone personify such a striking character. Moves like Jagger? That’s nice Levine, but I’d rather have moves like Weiland.
With one foot planted firmly in his past work, and the other in the present, it is clear that Weiland, despite claiming that he could see a potential reunion in the next few years with his former band mates in STP, was looking to brand himself as the innovative artist that he was as an individual, almost as if he was seeking a sense of independence from such titles that he is commonly referred to as (anything of the likes of “former STP/Velvet Revolver frontman”). This was a Scott Weiland show and between Blaster and his current live show with The Wildabouts, Weiland has proven to be more than just the talented singer he’s typically known for, but he has achieved a level of greatness as a solo artist, capable of capturing a nostalgic energy when playing classic tunes he built his career on, while also captivating an audience with his more recent work. Most importantly, especially in hindsight considering his passing, he appeared to be very happy. He seemed to be in a complete state of passion, something I felt was missing from the last time I saw him in May at The Mod Club. All in all, it was an incredible concert, and it left me even more excited for his next solo record, and another stop in Toronto. While it may not have been a sold out arena, the setting did not matter, Weiland certainly went out with a big bang, baby!
Weiland was, in my opinion, one of the most versatile singers in rock ‘n’ roll. I can think of very few vocalists who could capture the grunge essence with a lower, gravelly voice as he did on albums like STP’s Core and Purple, and then flip to a higher, smoother texture on the bands latter records like No. 4 and Shangri-La Dee Da, to the edgy and roaring vocals used while working with Velvet Revolver. He could even croon like a classic 1950’s band leader, as heard on his Christmas album, The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. Somehow, Blaster managed to cover all of these bases. Too see him jump from style to style in a live setting was truly inspiring. He was also one of the most expressive singers as his voice could truly capture the message of the words, often filling in the blank spaces between his poetic, and sometimes cryptic lyrics; it wasn’t good enough for the listener to understand what he sang, they had to feel it, they had to be moved by it. He could be aggressive, like on “Sex Type Thing”, he could express sadness, as heard on “Sour Girl” and “Atlanta”, or a scrambling depression on “Bi-Polar Bear, and he could be ever so loving, as heard on “Still Remains”, and “Wonderful”. He also proved to be an essential part to the song writing process in Stone Temple Pilots where, much like on Blaster, he could come up with creative melodies, and catchy hooks, whereas his first two solo albums- 12 Bar Blues and Happy In Galoshes– often took a softer, more artistic and experimental approach, differing from the hard rock he was known for.
For every low he had hit, he would spring back from the ominous dark into a new career high: in 2000, he was arrested, and then went on to tour with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, in what is often referred to as one of STP’s greatest live eras. Following the release of Shangri-La Dee Da and being booted from STP, Weiland went on to form Velvet Revolver, who’s first record, Contraband, would top the charts and sell millions of copies. Following the implosion of Velvet, Weiland later reunited with STP which marked yet another high point in their live shows. The point is, Weiland was on the cusp of yet another leap forward as a solo artist, who had not only written a great rock record, but was putting it all out there on the stage, night after night. It was evident he was building up for something as he toured constantly throughout 2015 following the release of Blaster. He was also frequently participating in press events, and he became far more active on his social media profiles, making an identity for just himself, separate from his past projects. He was not done; in fact, I think he was only getting started. We lost someone who, despite an obstinate and frequently doubting public opinion, proved to be remarkable at his art; a true innovator who managed to fuse the sludgy alternative rock of the 90’s with the glam of Bowie, and became not just a voice of a generation, but an inspiration to up and coming musicians even to this day.
His death truly is as surreal of an event as it is tragic. Following Weiland’s set, I met and chatted with The Wildabouts-bassist Tommy Black, drummer Joey Castillo, and guitarist Nick Maybury– all of whom are great musicians and all around very cool people. Unfortunately, I only got to meet Weiland briefly. We talked for a few minutes through the open front window of his tour bus, and while he seemed worn out and slightly distant-I assumed this was from putting on a kickass show and already being approached by countless fans- but he was appreciative of my kind words of what a milestone it was to be on the same bill and as to how much an impact his music has had on me. While I didn’t personally know him well, his death has truly struck me like a heavy, unsuspecting fist to the gut. It sucks to meet anyone and learn of their death less than two days later, but it’s absolutely heartbreaking to meet a hero only to see him go so soon. We conversed shortly after most of the show’s crowd had left, and his bus was nearly ready to depart. With this, and the little time between our conversation and his untimely death, in mind, aside from his crew and band mates, I may have been one of the last people to speak with him. I hope he took my words to heart.
I was beyond happy and so incredibly honoured to have the chance to open for Scott Weiland. Little did I know, this would be his final performance. Now I am completely heartbroken to hear of his passing. From his work with Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, and his solo material, Weiland has been the voice behind a number of my all-time favourite records. May you rest easy Scott. It was a pleasure to meet you. Forever one of my heroes; thank you for the great music, and for providing a soundtrack for many where your soul will live on. And thank you for inspiring the world over-through you music and how your ethic of overcoming one’s demons- to proclaim in a time of despair, that we are not dead, and not for sale.
Scott Weiland and The Wildabouts Setlist:
4: Meat Plow
5: Way She Moves
6: Big Bang Baby
7: Hotel Rio
9: Big Empty
10: White Lightning
12: The Jean Genie
13: Dead And Bloated