The last leg of the Under The Southern Stars 2022 tour, Brisbane’s The Riverstage welcomed touring international bands (the first in two years) as well as two Aussie exports (Electric Mary and Rose Tattoo) as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC), Bush, Cheap Trick and – oh my golly-gosh keep me in my skin – Stone Temple Pilots (STP) took to the stage last Sunday (27 March).
STP, the San Diego four-piece, has rotated to be the headlining act for tonight and what better present for this STP fan. The day I heard that Scott Weiland had passed, my music heart cracked a little. Therefore, STP’s latest lead vocalist, Jeff Gutt should be nervous to perform before me (jokes, from a mere punter).
Jokes aside, I really hope he shines from the shadows of Weiland and the late Chester Bennington to be triumphant with tonight’s crowd.
As you do, I nab a UTSS tour shirt and grab a drink before setting up base camp on the lawn on the crest of the pit area. Mighty fine digs.
Punters trickle in constantly. The vibe of the crowd is very chill, extremely friendly yet clearly geared up to see the six bands over the day and into the night – with hopes of a twinkling southern sky or at the least a cloudy and dry one.
It is time for the first band and I head towards the stage. Here I join the Electric Mary fans many of whom are holding their prized spots on the barrier.
I chat with some punters who are telling me they saw the Caloundra leg of UTSS last Friday and are boasting about how great it is. Actually they are not the first tour followers I have met and there’s the testimony for the UTSS organisers and crew they pulled it together more than alright. Needless to say their recount is making me drool.
Electric Mary – image © Clea-marie Thorne
Melbourne’s Electric Mary are first to hit the stage or should I say electrify it! This is no warmup act – hell no! There is stage-to-crowd lightning striking music to our ears.
After bass player Alex Raunjak treats us to some blues harmonica heralding ‘Sweet Mary C’, these rockers are dishing out outstanding super-charged and innovated ’70s and ’80s classic rock. Uh-oh, I may have a case of strabismus – my eyes are darting in different directions keeping up with four of the five-piece as they move about on stage.
Raunjak along with Pete Robinson and Brett Wood have the axe poses and leg stances superbly honed without missing a note on their rhythms and riffage. Lead singer Rusty Brown stalks the stage singly loudly with mic in hand.
As he sings: “No one does it better than me” I am thinking he’s right, those pipes of his were made for rock & roll, not to mention his attire – he is replicating the ’70s rocker style, wearing an oversized, flowy shirt that is deliberately left unbuttoned; dude is stylin’.
Brown lets the crowd know his father’s ashes are on tour with the band and assures us this is not morbid before dedicating ‘Luv Me’ to him. We get another three songs on their blistering set.
The seemingly immortal Rose Tattoo, who have been pumping out good ole’ solid rock & roll performances since, well let’s just say for a long while, are now onstage.
Rose Tattoo – image © Clea-marie Thorne
From the first song ‘Out Of This Place’, Angry Anderson sporting his sleeveless Rose Tattoo denim jacket belts out tune after tune as his deft musicians get in on the vocal melodies and have more than a bit of fun on stage with their instruments too.
With vocal tubes that still deliver a voice that is fierce and oh-so Australian, I’ve no doubt with Angry up front, Rose Tattoo will be playing for an eternity!
Punters are quick to nod and bop along with their best eternal bangers including ‘Who’s Got The Cash’, ‘Juice On The Loose’, ‘We Can’t Be Beaten’, ‘Scarred For Life’, ‘Bad Boy For Love’ and of course they finish their with ‘Rock n Roll Outlaw’.
The vibe has turned into one that has you at the biggest Sunday afternoon session in Brisbane’s largest beer garden with a stage. So steeped are these songs in our partying culture, you cannot help but know the words and recall them pub-day feels.
Whoo hoo! Our first international band, San Francisco’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) has arrived and are revving up punters after the break with alternative and indie-rock sounds that carry sounds of the ’90s in the set list.
There is a touch of doomy feels with ‘Red Eyes And Tears’, before we get to the thrumping of ‘Beat The Devil’s Tattoo’. I note that the music is sonically more diverse than their on-stage moves, which may be deliberate as by default this focusses our attention on the lyrics and dynamic arrangements.
BRMC – image © Clea-marie Thorne
I’m picking up on a Jesus And The Mary Chain nostalgia here and after ‘Hate The Taste’, ‘Berlin’, ‘In Like The Rose’, ‘Ain’t No Easy Way’, ‘Conscience Killer’, and ‘Spread Your Love’ they have added to their collection of fans from Down Under.
‘Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘n’ Roll (Punk Song)’ is their closing song. . . quite frankly, I don’t think BRMC is missing much by the way of rock or roll, at all.
The weather is holding out for us. Bush are up next and punters start to fill the spaces in front of the stage in preparation for the London rockers. It’s not a long wait – ripping straight into ‘Kingdom’, Gavin Rossdale is singing to us while prowling and bouncing on the stage and the front of the stage risers.
This frontman has a boundless energy as he croons and wails his way through the songs. The crowd gets absolutely nuts for ‘Machinehead’, ‘Everything Zen’ (even with a guitar malfunction – got to love it live) and ‘Glycerine’.
These familiar bangers are slinking on into my ears awakening old memories, and not to leave out ‘Blood River’, ‘The Chemicals Between Us’, ‘Quicksand’, ‘Ghost In The Machine’, ‘Bullet Holes’ and ‘Flowers On A Grave’ that also formed the set list and were thoroughly embraced by the crowd.
The alternative rockers gave good energy and feels. Rossdale crept out onto the barrier to personally connect with the crowd. He can still cast a spell over a sea of adoring punters lines deep at the front barrier – security have their hands full keeping the hands off the merchandise, oh puh-lease!
Bush – image © Clea-marie Thorne
Twice during Bush’s set Rossdale mentions the sad and sudden loss of Taylor Hawkins – who can deny that we have lost another precious soul of a talented musician who was an all-round nice-guy just way too early.
No doubt Hawkins tributes in many forms will come across the stages in the coming months and even years, in the same way the memories of Weiland, Cobain, Bennington and Cornell and the many others continue to be remembered in this way too.
Hailing from Chicago, Cheap Trick are boasting superlative musicians who not only know how to play their instruments but know how to work a crowd, dress the part and maintain a loyal following.
Cheap Trick’s music stands the test of time. The tonne of fans in the audience tonight are testament to this.
Cheap Trick – image © Clea-marie Thorne
Fourteen glorious songs are played to us starting with ‘Lookin’ Out For Number One’ while they did not leave out the fan must-haves: ‘He’s A Whore’, ‘Sick Man Of Europe’, ‘Downed’, ‘Southern Girls’, ‘Baby Loves To Rock’ and igniting us with everyone’s favourite ‘The Flame’.
Oooh. Look out! I clench my fists and squeal in delight with my big outside voice (because I can at a gig) as Jeff Gutt joins Cheap Trick on stage for ‘I Want You To Want Me’!
Rick Neilsen and his son Daxx look like they’re loving sharing the stage with Gutt and there’s a real warmth of camaraderie emanating from the stage while punters and musicians alike are having a ball on either side of the barrier.
Cheap Trick went on to keep our vibe ignited to the very end. Other hits played were ‘Dream Police’, ‘Surrender’ and ‘Goodnight’. The punters crooned along exhausted after that marathon, but not yet spent.
Cheap Trick with Jeff Gutt – image © Clea-marie Thorne
So Gutt now has the hard job of convincing me that he can cut it live with a STP performance. Truthfully, I am already excited if the teaser with Cheap Trick is anything to go by and his zero tolerance for violence in the mosh pit at the Gold Coast leg that has already won the hearts of many an Aussie punter attending this tour.
Nooo, way! Yes way! ‘Wicked Garden’ – oh yeah, gimme that grunge STP! From the very first line of ‘Wicked Garden’ I assure you that Gutt is giving it more than a good hard crack – he is the man.
I am impressed and fascinated, heck he has the style, he has his own take on Weiland’s stage moves – in a way if you closed your eyes he could be Weiland and with eyes opened you see that he brings his own energy to the party – he has taken the Weiland stage culture and cultivated it with his own sophistication and charisma.
‘Vasoline’ has us all singing along and our hips get a shaking with ‘Big Bang Baby’. STP’s originals Dean DeLeo, Robert DeLeo and Eric Kretz are on absolute fire tonight – they are smashing it onstage and striking poses while they effortlessly play like the rock gods they are.
This is being showcased ever so much with ‘Down’. This one rolls in with momentous bass and thumping tubs that could well bring down the rain from the clouds perched above our heads. I love this song!
Gutt projects his voice to carry the lyrics out to us as the perfect instrumentation rolls out in waves – he gets right among the crowd in front and punters go wild, reaching out to him and recording every second on their phones and brains! What an apt song, after all it is Sunday and I cannot deny what a fine marriage Gutt has entered into!
Stone Temple Pilots – image © Clea-marie Thorne
With a mad set of pipes he will be sure the keep STP in the business of performing old and creating new material. My heart is filling as we get ‘Big Empty’, ‘Plush’ and ‘Interstate Love Song’. Sigh, how good is this feeling right now? Euphoric.
We are dancing and singing along to every word of every song, and as the rain that has held off for so long starts to gently fall from the heavens we are poncho-ing up but we are not moving one bit. I am defs with my kin.
STP deal out ‘Crackerman’ and one from my very own road trip ‘caraoke’ playlist, ‘Dead And Bloated’ – yes, I scream out the song title through open car windows (insert grin). How good is this – to my extreme joy they do not leave off their banger ‘Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart’.
My music heart is full and it gets to overflowing as they close out with ‘Sex Type Thing’. I am left high on the music.
I have no doubt that if there is an afterlife, that Weiland and Bennington were watching STP perform their ageless songs and the rain falling is tears of joy as they watched Gutt romancing us, and I reckon they shed a tear for Hawkins too.
Well it was more than worth the wait and I will be lining up for more UTSS events – with stars or no stars in the sky, this was a stellar tour with an all-star line-up and an out-of-world experience for this live music addict.
As I join the herd on exit, I reckon I will ride this wave of elation for the rest of the week!