Chester Bennington was the last member of the band to take the stage at the start of Stone Temple Pilots set at SunFest, but very quickly he was the focus of the crowd, as it generally goes with lead singers.
Despite the shade that continues to be thrown at STP since fully cutting ties with former frontman Scott Weiland, everybody in West Palm Beach on Saturday night, like the fans who have seen shows throughout the band's spring tour, knows for a fact that guitarist Dean DeLeo, bassist Robert DeLeo, and drummer Eric Kretz got the right guy when bringing the Linkin Park singer into the fold.
“There’s a new energy here. It’s a lot of light,” Dean said in a phone interview a few days before the band was scheduled to land in South Florida. “It’s never been better. He just brought a whole different thing for everyone involved in this band — listeners, managers, agents, and members of the band.”
While former frontman Weiland has become a shell of his former self — as evidenced by YouTube clips of recent shows with his new band — Bennington has given STP new life and proved it to South Florida during the band’s set at SunFest on May 2.
“I love this shit,” Bennington said more than once after roaring through songs during a set packed with classics. It’s clear he’s excited to be on stage with these guys, and that excitement spills out to the crowd as he leaps and lunges and urges fans to scream along with him.
During the SunFest set, Bennington jumped into the crowd to sing a slowed-down version of STP’s breakthrough 1992 hit “Plush.” Bennington eventually finished the song with a 9-year-old in the front row as the entire crowd sang along. That’s not a new trick for him, as he’s been finding kids in the crowd to sing with for a couple of years now. But it’s definitely one of the things the band loves about him. They watch and smile, ready to slam back into the song when Bennington gets back up on stage.
DeLeo said the band has been rediscovering parts of its catalog that had lain dormant for years. Two years after joining the band, this is the first tour STP is playing “Creep” with Bennington, and the band has added to its set sadly forgotten deep cuts such as “Adhesive” and “Pruno.”
“We were ready to finish rehearsals, and Chester started singing 'Pruno,'” DeLeo said. “It was so amazing just hearing him sing it a cappella that Robert, Eric, and I were just like, ‘Let’s work that up right now.’ So we put our instruments back on. I forgot how really fun that song is to play. It’s been a really, really long time.”
Aside from a few more festival dates this summer, SunFest was the last stop on STP’s spring tour, while Bennington heads out to a few countries on tour with Linkin Park. The DeLeo brothers and Kretz will spend most of the next several months at home in California continuing to work on the new STP album.
DeLeo said they’ve got six songs done with a few more already moving along, and the plan is to send Bennington MP3s of the tracks so he can work on lyrics and vocals and potentially be ready to roll on that new album after the Linkin Park tour.
Because its lead singer splits time between two bands, Dean DeLeo said STP has got to be really careful with time and take advantage of it any way they can.
“I gotta hand it to him,” DeLeo said, “it’s astonishing how this guy pulls this off. He’s got six kids, a wonderful wife, he’s in Linkin Park, and he’s in Stone Temple Pilots. And he pulls it off gracefully. It’s pretty amazing. That should just tell you what kind of guy we have here.”
The guy they have appears to have righted a ship that was rocking through the last decade with a lead singer who was never able to be the guy his band, and his fans, expected him to be. DeLeo said he hasn’t talked to Weiland in at least four years, and at the moment, he’s fine with that.
When thanked for sparing a few minutes on the phone, DeLeo said he’s just glad that 25 years anybody still wants to talk to them. And as for those still unsure about Bennington fronting that band? He wants everybody to give it a chance but understands if some fans are gonna fall off.
“What makes it exciting is when we’re playing for ten people or for 10,000 people, is it feels like we’re one and in it together,” DeLeo said. “That’s the thing. It’s all about energy and the energy we give to one another.
“We’re really excited about it,” he added. “I think when it comes down to it, musicians are their own worst critic, and if you’re not feeling it, how is anybody else going to feel it? We’re definitely feeling it.”