LOS ANGELES — Not only was Velvet Revolver's debut performance more visceral, more pummeling and more hypercharged than even the most devoted Stone Temple Pilots or Guns N' Roses fan could have expected, but there was evidence of genuine personal chemistry — as opposed to a convenient partnership designed to boost mutually unstable careers — between the band's key players.
Specifically, it was the moment when Slash affectionately laid his head on Scott Weiland's shoulder that seemed to drive the point of the evening home: The former "Project" is officially a real band.
The new group's short set at the El Rey Theatre on Thursday night, taken in by an energetic crowd that included Dave Grohl, Vincent Gallo, Shane West, David Spade, No Doubt's Tony Kanal and "Hulk" director Ang Lee as well as some lucky fans, kicked off with a sped-up and chunky cover of the Sex Pistols classic "Bodies," which led directly into the band's "Hulk" soundtrack single, "Set Me Free."
In spite of their veteran résumés and well chronicled battles with various substances, the bandmembers — Weiland, Slash, the former GN'R rhythm section of Duff McKagan (bass) and Matt Sorum (drums) and McKagan's onetime Loaded partner/ ex-Wasted Youth guitarist Dave Kushner — appeared every bit as youthful and muscular as their set sounded, with all of them winding up shirtless by the end of the evening.
Weiland promised a couple of "presents" before the show began, and the group delivered, launching into STP's "Sex Type Thing" as if Slash wrote the riff himself, and following up with the Appetite for Destruction track "It's So Easy," an appropriate choice for Weiland's vocal range. The addition of his trademark bullhorn added a surreal element to the proceedings.
The band next laid into another original track — the moody, grooving and understandably STP-like "Slither," before exiting the stage, only to return to encore with Nirvana's "Negative Creep," a track so beefy in this setting that it almost sounded like a death metal song. As the band clobbered its way through the track, Weiland dove into the crowd several times, peppering the tune as he had the entire set with his well-known arachnidlike crouching, trippy dancing and waving arms.
Velvet Revolver's performance was preceded by a short press conference where the band outlined its plans for the next few months, made light of its long search for a suitable frontman (see "Slash/ Duff/ Matt Coming Soon, Axl Nowhere In Sight") and downplayed its troubled new singer's recent arrest (see "Weiland Pleads Not Guilty To Drug Charges, Offers To Go To Rehab").
"What happened to Scott Weiland a few weeks ago, it really could happen to any one of us," Duff said. Then he added, "It has happened to all of us."
Sorum said he and his bandmates listened to more than 500 CDs, but when Scott walked in they immediately knew he was the guy. After the press conference, Weiland revealed that he was nine songs into a second solo album before he joined Velvet Revolver and referred to what appears to be the final dissolution of his former group as merely a "very, very" long hiatus.
"Everything [else] is pretty much on hold now," he said. "I know that there is talk about a greatest-hits album for STP, but I don't know anything about it really, because my heart and soul is into Velvet Revolver right now. ... We were in the middle of our set [at sound check] and I just kind of went over to those guys and went, 'I feel like we've been on tour for about a year now.' The chemistry's there. It's a band."
"The chemistry is perfect," offered Slash. "It just fits. It's like all of a sudden we are just us, all five of us, and it just happened like that."
"And we really bonded as friends, as brothers, in a relatively short time," Duff chimed in.
"Duff, Dave [and I] spent a month together in the mountains in Washington in a secluded area, just recently," Scott said, "so we've gotten to know each other pretty intimately."
Velvet Revolver are currently sorting through close to 50 songs (around 10 of which were written with original GN'R axeman Izzy Stradlin) for their debut album, which, Weiland's legal hassles notwithstanding, they hope to release by Christmas. In addition to "Set Me Free" and "Slither," Weiland said he's written vocals for around four more of the band's instrumental tunes so far. They're still looking for a producer and they'll probably record the album on their own before bothering with a record deal. For now, it's back to the practice room, where Weiland said Velvet Revolver have been writing and rehearsing every single day.
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