Photos by Keeyahtay Lewis, Words by Bill Bodkin
“Welcome Home New Jersey” read the marquee outside The Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey.
On an unseasonably crisp summer evening, the famed Central Jersey rock club re-opened to a packed house after being sidelined by the effects of Hurricane Sandy nearly one year ago.
As the crowds patiently waited on line the head of security addressed the masses extolling the virtues of the new improvements made to the venue.
His descriptions were not were wrong; the Starland Ballroom’s renovations were fantastic. The lines of sight throughout the venue have increased dramatically with the removal of partitions and walls. The venue has all new floors (thanks to the water damage) and the choice of a sandy marble gives the venue a new sense of space and openness. The bar area has been completely redone with a new, modern, slick feel — you feel like you’re at a top shelf NYC club, not a concert hall in Sayreville.
The lighting system in the venue is infinitely better and the sound was crisp and clear.
Some things haven’t changed though — a lot of the familiar faces have returned and they’ve still got the same pizza warmers. It was a little slice of home for sure.
The Starland stage was christened with local rockers Trimm taking the stage. They were a solid rock outfit and vastly better than a lot of unsigned, local openers we’ve all seen throughout our years of concert-going.
Second up was Filter. The band started a little rough, opening up with the band’s late 90s jam with Crystal Method “Trip Like I Do.” It seemed as though lead singer Richard Patrick’s voice wasn’t up to par. He proved us all wrong as by mid-set he was hitting all his marks and by the end of the band’s set he was shredding his vocal chords to the chorus of “Hey Man Nice Shot” which is amazing to hear live. Patrick is a hell of a front man — engaging his audience at all times, even crowd suffering during “Gotta Green Light.”
Then came the main event.
Many of us in attendance wondered how Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington would fare as Stone Temple Pilots’ new lead singer. Would he be able to capture the magic that Scott Weiland, in his prime, had with the band? Would the band sound like a cheap tribute band? Would people boo Chester?
Well, when STP came out and ripped into their thunderous hit “Down” all worries were assuaged. Chester Bennington can sing; I mean really sing. He can rip it up with STP’s down and dirty stuff and be super melodic on their ballads. On stage he moved with the same lithe intensity of a ’90s Scott Weiland and you could tell the energy of the crowd was just fueling his every move.
As for the “core” STP guys, you could tell that they were enjoying the hell out of the night. Big, goofy smiles were etched across their face in between songs. You could also tell the crowd’s reaction, especially when the entire venue broke out into an “STP” chant early in their set, really touched them.
The barnburner of the evening, to no surprise, was “Sex Type Thing.” The entire venue was unhinged during the performance — air drums, air guitar, dancing, singing at the top of their lungs.
That’s how you open a venue and that’s how you re-introduce a band to the masses.
Big Bang Baby
Dead & Bloated
Out of Time
Church On Tuesday
Interstate Love Song
Pop’s Love Suicide
Sex Type Thing
Sex & Violence
Piece of Pie
Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart
Click on any photo for hi-res version or to begin slideshow