April 9th, 2008
02:38 PM ET

Magic at the Stone Temple Pilots reunion

A swarthy man in black pants and a ruffled shirt walked into the room.

Scott Weiland and Dean DeLeo perform at the Stone Temple Pilots show Monday night.

"Are you the fire eater?" asked the bass player of Stone Temple Pilots.

"Yes. Are you Robert DeLeo?" replied Ted the Fire Eater.

And that pretty much summed up the carnival atmosphere Monday night at Los Angeles’ Houdini Mansion, once the home of the famed magician, where a Fellini-esque assortment of contortionists, sword swallowers and waiters serving up hot dogs and churros set the stage for the return of the Stone Temple Pilots.

But then everything surrounding the band has been a three-ring circus.

Monday night's private event in Laurel Canyon officially announced STP's first national tour in eight years. They'd been broken up for five, after several years of alternately pumping out hits and trying to hold it together during Scott Weiland's well-publicized battle with drugs.

In 2008, the mood backstage is quite different than it was during the Grammy-winning quartet's tumultuous heyday. Guitarist Dean DeLeo - who's struggled with his own demons - will notch his fourth year of sobriety in a few days. Their happy-go-lucky drummer, Eric Kretz, is even happier these days, with a wife and young child. In the meantime, Robert DeLeo's angelic two-year-old son, Duke, walked in, sporting a miniature peace-sign shirt. He serenaded the room with "It's a small world after all," perfectly on-pitch. His father groaned and mumbled something about how he'd better not grow up and become a singer. Weiland glanced over, unfazed.

Outside, 300 radio contest winners and VIPs gathered in front of a platform draped with bunting. It looked like a life-sized marionette stage - a giant toy strangely nestled among the trees in the middle of a residential community. The band was scheduled to perform at 8:15 p.m. Just before 9, STP casually strolled onto the stage. Weiland spoke into the mic.

"Sorry to keep you waiting - for five years," he said.

They also apologized for Ted the Fire Eater, saying the fire marshal wouldn't allow him to do his thing.

A sea of cell phone cameras immediately popped up as the reunited Stone Temple Pilots launched into the slow, psychedlic groove of 1994's "Big Empty." For the next 30 minutes, they presented faithful renditions of some of their biggest hits, including "Plush," "Lady Picture Show" and "Interstate Love Song." Weiland leaned into Dean's back during a guitar solo on one song; he draped an arm around Robert's shoulders during another.

The set abruptly ended at 9:30 - a victim of the local noise ordinance. Amid chants of "S-T-P! S-T-P!," the four bandmates returned to the stage for a bow, their arms linked. Fans will just have to wait for their 65-date tour for a real encore. Like Ted the Fire Eater, Stone Temple Pilots are waiting for their chance to truly ignite once again.

- Denise Quan, CNN Entertainment Reporter

Check out Denise Quan's one-on-one interview with the Stone Temple Pilots on CNN Headine News and CNN.com this weekend.

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