There are some men who are made to wear pants with one-inch zippers. They straddle amplifiers with ease, shoot their flesh full of ink and drugs, and appear to have had poisonous snakes for parents. They schedule gigs around their relapses and delay albums to accommodate court dates. They're trouble, they're rock stars, and Scott Weiland -- former frontman for Stone Temple Pilots and now the serpentine mike-slinger in the Sunset Strip supergroup Velvet Revolver -- is one of the last left standing.
Weiland's new pack of cred-heavy enablers include three former members of the beloved hard- rock band Guns N' Roses. Some may wonder why guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Matt Sorum -- who spent the better part of a decade hoping that Axl Rose would show up -- decided to hitch their wagon to another whackjob. Here's a guess: It's because not a single fist-pumping dude, dutiful girlfriend, or jaded insider in the jam-packed audience Saturday night at Avalon could take their eyes off him.
The preening and strutting began with the first notes of "Sucker Train Blues" -- a track from Velvet Revolver's forthcoming debut, "Contraband," in stores June 8 -- and ended 75 minutes later with a cover of Nirvana's "Negative Creep." In between, the band played eight more tracks from "Contraband" and a few tunes each from the members' old bands: STP's grungy "Crackerman" and "Sex Type Thing," and GNR's "Its So Easy," "Mr. Brownstone," and the night's big crowdpleaser, "Used to Love Her."
The latter tune was positively shocking -- not so much for its misogynist lyrics but because the song's loping, country-fried boogie was such a dramatic break from the Velvet Revolver catalog, which combined into one extended rabble-rousing anthem to rock-star decadence. Even "Fall to Pieces," a topical power ballad which addresses addiction in a meaningful way, struck many as a good excuse to light up. It also inspired nostalgia for Izzy Stradlin's composing skills. Suffice it to say that Velvet Revolver is less about great songwriting than narrow torsos and gnarly riffs.
Slash, in particular, was masterful. McKagen and Sorum are still an incendiary rhythm section, and second guitarist Dave Kushner seemed quite happy to have been invited to strum on the side of the stage. Weiland, on the other hand, was convincingly joyless. He came out looking like the bad Terminator cop in an officer's cap and aviator glasses, but soon doffed everything except his tiny black trousers. He did appear surprisingly fit -- the better to flow through an endless series of poses, a beautifully damaged practitioner of a faded form.
Joan Anderman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org