LOS ANGELES Stone Temple Pilots, minus jailed singer Scott Weiland, found themselves a part-time job Tuesday night backing the stars of the gender-bending rock musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at a private party.
They played songs from the show behind "Hedwig" creator and star John Cameron Mitchell and his successor in the starring role, Michael Cerveris. Then, with backup singer Miriam Shor filling in for Weiland, they played STP's "Big Bang Baby" and dedicated it to Weiland, who is serving a year for violating his probation on a 1998 heroin conviction.
Playing the song without Weiland wasn't too hard, according to STP guitarist Dean DeLeo.
"God, no," DeLeo said. "I wrote the f---ing thing."
The show, at the new Hollywood club Vinyl, celebrated the New York-born production's upcoming Los Angeles run, which begins Oct. 31.
Cerveris, who succeeded Mitchell in the show's starring role in New York and will head the Los Angeles cast, said afterward that the gig with the three Stone Temple Pilots "exceeded even our expectations."
"It was a blast really the best kind of introduction you could ask for," said Cerveris, who also played "Tommy" in the Broadway production of the Who's rock opera and played guitar on exHusker Du frontman Bob Mould's recent world tour.
"I was really impressed with [Stone Temple Pilots] putting so much effort into something that's not really their thing," Cerveris said.
STP saw the production in New York and fell in love with it, according to a band spokesperson. Developed by Mitchell and composer Stephen Trask in 1994, "Hedwig" is a pseudo rock concert performed by an East German drag queen who survived a botched sex change.
"It was the first time I had to deal with the emotions of being in love with a man," DeLeo said.
The show, which premiered on Valentine's Day in 1998 at the Jane Street Theater in New York, has spawned a cast album, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, released by Atlantic Records in February, and Mitchell and Trask who also performed Tuesday night are writing the screenplay for a movie version.
Actors Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz were in the audience for the Stone Temple Pilots and the "Angry Inch" gig, which opened with "Wig in a Box" (RealAudio excerpt of original cast version). Trask played keyboards against Mitchell's subdued vocals before STP DeLeo, his bass-playing brother Robert and drummer Eric Kretz kicked in and started rocking.
Mitchell was dressed in character, in a long blond wig and a skimpy black get-up. He fronted several songs alone before Cerveris, dressed the same way, joined him for the anthem "Angry Inch" (RealAudio excerpt of original cast version).
After a few more "Hedwig" tunes and "Big Bang Baby," Cerveris and Mitchell stripped each other down, wigs and all, until they were wearing only black, underwear-like shorts. After surveying each other, they turned to the audience and stage dove into the welcoming arms of the frontline crowd.
"That just goes to show you that the men who play Hedwig are serious rock 'n' rollers," attendee Jason Marr said. "Those guys just tore the house down."
After finding their way back to the stage, Mitchell and Cerveris, their makeup smeared, closed the main set with "Midnight Radio." They returned for the encore, "The Origin of Love," with Mitchell proclaiming "This is a true story."
Cerveris said the crowd's enthusiastic response to the show was a good sign for the musical's run there.
"The stereotype is that L.A. audiences are much more reserved and too concerned about looking cool, but if tonight's any indication, that's not going to be any problem," Cerveris said. "Hard-core rock people are gonna finally go to the theater and not feel disappointed in the music."
The DeLeo brothers and Kretz have worked without Weiland before. In 1997, they released an album with singer Dave Coutts, under the name Talk Show.
Stone Temple Pilots' fourth album, No. 4, is due Oct. 26.