Jeff Gutt is not Scott Weiland.
But he has managed to channel his predecessor without explicitly mimicking the late frontman.
When Stone Temple Pilots launched into set-opener “Coma” on Tuesday night, it was striking to watch the newcomer channel the iconic frontman’s mannerisms and stage moves, with even his lithe stature and dark sunglasses recalling the singer.
But over time, Gutt gradually gained confidence and found his own groove as the band plowed through its set at Upstate Music Hall in Clifton Park, its first appearance in the Capital Region since 2011, and one of the first stops on its North American tour.
It’s been a long road for Eric Kretz and brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo since emerging from grunge’s tailwinds with the release of “Core” in 1992.
Following a string of records that married grunge to king-size arena rock riffs, the band ran aground in the late-1990s as Weiland battled with substance abuse.
The charismatic-but-troubled frontman died in 2015, two years after exiting the band for the final time, leaving the outfit at a crossroads. A brief stint with Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington ended similarly.
But the San Diego outfit has emerged on the other side: the band sounded hungry and focused on Tuesday as they rumbled through a set front-loaded with classics that made the band radio and MTV mainstays:
Wicked Garden,” Vasoline,” “Big Bang Baby” and “Interstate Love Song” saw few variations from their Weiland-era iterations, and you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been catapulted back in time.
Selections were culled mainly from the first three records, including sophomore effort “Purple,” which will be reissued on Thursday as part of a three-LP set to commemorate its 25th anniversary.
Back-to-back smash hits “Plush” and the bluesy “Big Empty” had the crowd singing along, with the bright glow of smartphones held aloft replacing the Zippo torches of yesterday.
Paired with radio-friendly mainstays were darker “Core”-era songs like “Dead and Bloated,” “Crackerman” and the foreboding cruise-missile “Piece of Pie,” the first song Gutt sang with the band.
It’s impossible to write about Stone Temple Pilots, who have sold 70 million records, without comparing Gutt to Weiland, whose swaggering menace was leavened with a sense of emotional vulnerability.
But like another 1990s-era band that embarked on an unlikely second act following the death of an iconic frontman — Alice in Chains, who played Saratoga Performing Arts Center last month — the band has managed to recruit a singer who walks the delicate line between emulation and actively contributing to the band’s still-evolving legacy.
For Gutt, that was putting his own spin on “Lounge Fly” with its speak-sing verses, which paired well with Robert DeLeo’s acoustic guitar and two-part vocal harmonies.
While the resemblance was originally too on-the-nose, Gutt came into his own midway through the 16-song set as he performed the two cuts he recorded with the band on last year’s self-titled LP:
“Meadow,” the single which introduced him to the world, fits right into the band’s catalog with its loose, mid-tempo groove.
And perhaps unconsciously, that’s when Gutt first removed his aviator-type shades midway through the set.
Later, he waded out into the crowd for the driving and defiant “Roll Me Under.”
“If it's the taste you remember/You may not share in this sweet delight/Yeah we can live forever/If there's a time we can get it right,” Gutt sang.
Is there a place for Stone Temple Pilots in 2019? And more importantly, do fans care who the frontman is?
In the case of the Clifton Park crowd, largely aging Generation X’ers, probably not: The band was met with wild reception.
Gutt will always exist in Weiland’s shadow, but these are timeless rock songs and the band has plenty of life in it yet. With one LP with Gutt at the helm — and another on the way — all signals are pointing toward a band intent on forging ahead and not costing on the fumes of nostalgia.
Openers Camp Howard, hailing from Richmond, Virginia, branded themselves as indie rock, but their odd time signatures and laconic vocal delivery paired with a Pixies-esque loud-quiet-loud dynamic were more comparable to early grunge outfits than that designation suggests.
At 25 minutes, the band's set was just long enough to whet the crowd’s appetite without overstaying their welcome.