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Pop Music Review

After the Knockin' They're Still Rockin'

A joint concert by the Chili Peppers and Stone Temple Pilots shows how, despite the ravages of time and drugs, these bands keep themselves vital.

September 04, 2000|STEVE APPLEFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll is, by now, an old cliche, a winning formula for some, the road to death and destruction for others. Not everyone survives. Which made the weekend teaming of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Stone Temple Pilots at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater an unexpectedly stirring, if flawed, reunion with the bands' hometown fans.

Drug habits nearly destroyed both Southern California acts in recent years, but there was little evidence of the last decade's history on Friday (the first of the bill's two nights) other than occasional comments from Pilots singer Scott Weiland. The goal was musical reignition.

Neither act stands among the most important bands of its generation, even if both helped bring modern rock to mainstream audiences. But the Chili Peppers are certainly a core influence on a new wave of testosterone-fueled bands mixing funk and hard rock, from Limp Bizkit to 311.

The Chili Peppers are still riding the momentum of a transformation caused when a guitarist John Frusciante joined the band a decade ago. He left (yes, drugs) and then returned for their 1999 hit album "Californication," and on Friday his fire and inventiveness were intact, adding just enough classic rock guitar flavor to reach beyond the band's devoted core audience.

But the band has always been weighted with the presence of singer Anthony Kiedis, whose arch, macho strut will forever stand as an icon of '90s rock. In other ways he's more like the Sammy Hagar of punk, with vocal limitations that have prevented the Peppers from reaching a higher musical plane. His approach could often still be effective at Verizon, as during the superfunk of "Suck My Kiss," but without enough variety to effectively carry an entire night.

When the second-billed Stone Temple Pilots landed on stage, Weiland looked like a Pepper himself: shirtless, tattooed and with a Mohawk.

Appearing healthy and muscular, rather than the gaunt peacock he'd become by the end of the '90s, Weiland was an exceptionally dramatic showman, though more effort was put into his jumps and gyrations than into a polished vocal performance.

He danced and strutted with nervous energy. He waded into the crowd and took several tumbles to the stage, as if reenacting a scene from "Fight Club."

If the Pilots have earned more publicity these last few years for Weiland's drug busts than for their music, the quartet has at least tried lately to craft a richer pop sound, closer to the Beatles than Pearl Jam. Even so, on Friday the Pilots were most convincing (though still derivative) when rocking the hardest.

Intentionally or not, Weiland was an amusing rock spectacle when draping a U.S. flag over his skull to rant against George W. Bush. But there was little to argue against with the hard-rocking likes of the new "Down," which closed the Pilots' set, leaving the singer flat on his back amid the glitter and fog, a momentarily spent symbol for rock resurrection.

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