Velvet Revolver has always seemed like something created in a marketing meeting rather than an organically conceived band, as the former members of Guns N’ Roses turned to Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland. “Contraband,” the band’s 2004 debut, and the tour that followed were too obviously the result of a shotgun marriage. At the Avalon, Velvet Revolver performed songs from the band’s upcoming album, “Libertad” (due this summer on RCA); with that material they made a concerted effort to reconcile the two camps but were only partially successful.
Live, the problem is manifested by the lack of chemistry between Weiland and the rest of the band. He may drape his arm around Slash or bassist Duff McKagen’s shoulders, but they don’t really acknowledge his presence. (It’s hard to take him seriously when, wearing a peaked military-style cap and aviator glasses, he looked like he was auditioning for a road production of “The Producers.”) The band bashes along, with Slash providing his corroded, Johnny Thunders-styled guitar solos and Matt Sorum bashing away at the drums while Weiland pirouettes around the stage. He’s a potent frontman, but just not for this band.
And the songs that favor Weiland don’t play to the band’s strengths. “She Builds Quick Machines,” the album’s first single, strikes an uneasy balance — it’s grungy on the verses, crunchy on the chorus. The aud greets the new material politely, throws up the requisite devil’s horns and fists for songs from “Contraband” but saves its biggest cheers for the Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots covers. The evening’s oldest song, a heartfelt but leaden cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” — performed in memory of Weiland’s brother Michael, who died during the recording of “Libertad,” and sung by an obviously emotional Weiland with his back to the crowd as he watched home movies projected on a screen behind the band — found the crowd getting restless.
But with this style of hard rock no longer a driving cultural force, the genre’s fans may be willing to get their fix wherever they can. Velvet Revolver plays New York’s Nokia Theater on May 22.