Watching Jeff Gutt (pronounced “Goot”) perform at the Aragon Ballroom on September 25 as Stone Temple Pilots’ new lead singer felt a bit like watching him as a contestant on The X Factor. A Season 3 runner-up on the TV show, he covered every genre from Aerosmith to a powerfully gritty rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Given that he’s only released one album with the band, it’s no surprise he’s still performing cover tunes. With the current set list being comprised of only two songs he’s originally sung on, it will take him performing on a couple more albums with STP to truly assert his own voice.

This is an experience not unlike William DuVall endured when he first joined Alice in Chains. It’s apparent that for now Gutt is boxed into doing his best impersonation of the band’s original vocalist: the late, great, but tortured soul Scott Weiland.

In addition to dyeing his similarly spiky locks blonde, Gutt has channeled Scott right down to the improvised vocalizations on the live version of “Plush” made famous during an MTV acoustic session. He’s also adopted Weiland’s (and Layne Staley’s) penchant for wearing bug-eye sunglasses on stage. However, he won’t be turning David Bowie glam as Weiland did in the late 1990s. During a radio-station interview he did last year, he said Weiland singing in a megaphone, for example, was fairly sacred enough he wanted to leave that part of the former frontman’s legacy intact.

Gutt isn’t doing bad vocally though. After all, if Van Halen can find success with a new singer, why can’t STP? Still, Weiland’s contribution can’t be overstated. Anyone who has followed the band since the beginning and seen them fill arenas (where Dennis Rodman once came out and introduced them) can’t help but miss his presence despite his many quirks. I can even forgive him going diva on us photojournalists about 10 years ago and kicking us out of the House of Blues because he didn’t feel up to having his photo taken that night.

Although he fought drug addiction throughout much of his career, it’s hard to argue that he wasn’t every bit as iconic and charismatic as Kurt Cobain, Freddie Mercury or Jim Morrison. Add to this attribute the fact that he stood with Cobain, Staley, Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder as the handful of early voices in grunge. As such, he leaves behind tough shoes for Gutt to fill. But if you’ve heard the extent to which Gutt has declared his passion for music, you’d know he’s hungry and, therefore, up for the task.

For starters, unlike Weiland, Gutt appears more willing to engage directly with the audience. As the night progressed, he frequented the crowd more than a few times. At one point during “Roll Me Under,” he stood on the barricade touching as many of hands clamoring for his attention as he could. To one fan’s delight he wailed right into a camera phone.

Kelly Rowland coaching Gutt during an episode of X Factor said, “Each week we are seeing new layers to you. But what else are you going to show us?” With songs like “Sour Girl” and “Interstate Love Song,” Stone Temple Pilots had already demonstrated skill at genre hopping. As a longtime fan of the band, I can’t wait to see where else Gutt takes them.

Set List
1. Down
2. Wicked Garden
3. Vasoline
4. Crackerman
5. Lounge Fly
6. Big Bang Baby
7. Glide
8. Plush
9. Meadow (new STP song with Gutt)
10. Big Empty
11. Interstate Love Song
12. Roll Me Under (new STP song with Gutt)
13. Dead & Bloated (performed with Graham Whitford of Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown)
14. Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart

15. Piece of Pie
16. Sex Type Thing

Stone Temple Pilots: