At the height of his stage power and popularity, Scott Weiland was as wondrous as he was infuriating.
He was a rock star in every sense of the term — flamboyant, self-indulgent, self-absorbed and, ultimately, self-destructive. All are traits that go hand in hand when celebrity status, commercial stardom and good ol’ rock ’n’ roll collide. Collectively, they form a circus that audiences not only accept, but often mercilessly encourage until the music stops and attention is shifted to the next sideshow.
Weiland’s tenure in the big top ended Thursday. He died at the shamefully young age of 48, found on his tour bus in Bloomington, Minn., concluding a career that gained as much attention for his vices and excesses as it did for his music.
Standing tall and healthy that night in Louisville, Weiland seemingly shook loose of his demons and celebrated rock ’n’ roll as the huge musical affirmation it was always intended to be.
Walter Tunis, Herald-Leader Music Critic
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Critically, Weiland was revered and reviled. His initial recordings with Stone Temple Pilots helped define a grunge revolution even if manycritics dismissed the band as blatantly imitative of Pearl Jam and other contemporaries. The band’s performances, all rhythmically jarring and furiously electric, seemed to depend on how lucid Weiland chose to be. He later went on to front Velvet Revolver from 2002 to 2008 with fellow marquee stars Slash and Duff McKagan.
When he performed a Derby Week concert with STP at the Louisville Palace in May 2002, Weiland was a clear-headed, energized and inviting performer who provided a healthy sense of cunning to his band. That night, STP saved favorites like Vasoline, Crackerman and what remains my favorite entry in their catalog, the pile-driving groove workout Big Bang Baby, for later in the set and opened with 10 minutes of Pink Floyd’s prog-saturated Shine on You Crazy Diamond.
The latter tune was a requiem for Floyd founder Syd Barrett, a drug-rattled champion of the psychedelic era who spent the last three decades of his life too broken to even perform in public. Even at his worst, Weiland never teetered that far out of bounds. But the parallel was obvious.
Standing tall and healthy that night in Louisville, Weiland seemingly shook loose of his demons and celebrated rock ’n’ roll as the huge musical affirmation it was always intended to be. Naïve as it may sound today, that’s the snapshot I will keep of him — as one of the music’s proudest revelers instead of one of its latest casualties.
Walter Tunis is celebrating his 35th year covering music for the Herald-Leader.