SLASH, Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, 2012

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Live review: SLASH at Thebarton Theatre, August 28 2012

By STEVE MASCORD

NEW Year’s Eve in Las Vegas. A Tuesday night in Adelaide. After just three songs, they are neck-and-neck.

This reviewer did not set out to compare the Slash show at Thebarton Theatre last night to Guns N’Roses all-bells-and-whistles outing at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino which rang in my 2012.

That had probably been one of my personal gigs of the year to date, with Axl Rose’s wailing version of AC/DC’s “Riff Raff” a spine-tingling highlight, and this was … well … a Tuesday night in Adelaide.

But given the pulsating, compelling, crushing delivery of “Halo”, “Nightrain” and “Ghost”, the comparison had quickly grown unavoidable. Slash’s new album may be a little too modern rock for these ears but this is already a visceral, life-affirming spectacle.

By the time “Standing In The Sun”, “Back From Cali” and “Mr Bownstone” flash by as songs four, five and six respectively, it’s official: Tuesday night in Adelaide is actually BETTER than New Years in Las Vegas.

Myles Kennedy, replete with understated dark buttoned shirt and chain wallet, is as close to perfect as any vocalist you could hope to be. He doesn’t try to imitate Axl or any of the other singers he is “covering” tonight – but makes every single tune (aside from the two sung by vocalist Todd Kerns) his own.

Slash is like a footballer who has become a tennis player. Before, you could only glance at him occasionally – now he is the centre of attention despite uttering barely a word into the microphone all night.

And he stands up to the scrutiny. To say his is a God-like presence as he grimaces, smiles  and plays classic riff after classic riff is the suggest you expected anything else – and I didn’t.

Here is what does surprise, delight and entrance:

Slash has decided to stick with a band – The Conspirators – rather than continue down the purely solo path. As I said, the recorded result of this is not quite to this writer’s taste.

But live, the punkish aesthetic of Appetite For Destruction, born out of squalid camaraderie, has been gloriously resurrected. Axl once once said an early 2000s incarnation of GN’R could “play the shit” out of the early songs. Well the Conspirators can play the #!#% out of them – with all the subtlety of a rhinoceros on Viagra.

“Rocket Queen”, “Nightrain”, “Mr Brownstone”, these guitar-driven anthems from 1987 get their most anarchic, authentic renditions from this band. The current GNR, on the other hand, leans heavily in style and feel towards the over-blown but magnificent Use Your Illusion albums – into which Slash did not delve at all last night.

Pauses between songs while pianos and the like are wheeled out – and the number of slower tunes – suck the momentum away from current GN’R. It’s only the Blues Jam and “Godfather Theme” which do that to Slash’s gritty set.

Ultimately, Slash gets out of the DeLorean from scummy 1988 where this was the size of venue Guns were playing. Axl is from still from 1992, when they were in stadia. That’s the difference.

read on

GUNS N’ROSES, Sydney Entertainment Centre, 1988

Live review: GUNS N’ROSES at Sydney Entertainment Centre, December 17 1988

AXL Rose is damn angry. And me, I’m just shocked. Because it’s more than partially my fault. 

Guns N’Roses, one of the most publicised, heard, hated, adored and feared groups of 1988 is in full flight at the Sydney Entertainment Centre before about 10,000 black t-shirted disciples. Rose, the manic tattooed frontman, skips around like a windup toy about to bust a spring as his bandmates pump out a sleazy, slowed-down version of “You’re Crazy”.

“Awright,” he pants, greeting the audience’s approval at the end of the song. “Before we get started I wanna say something.

“We’ve been reading this article backstage and we’d like to apologise for having a puny ass band like Kings Of The Sun open for us. We’re sorry we gave them the opportunity.” Pity the poor journo, I muse. Hope he doesn’t name him. “We weren’t trying to rip off Rose Tattoo just because we included one of our songs in their set  – we just wanted to play some good rock’n’roll.” Oh shit, that’s me.

As detailed previously, Kings Of The Sun were kicked out of the Entertainment Centre after the Gunners read the issue of OTS in which Kings drummer Clifford Hoad said “and you go over there to LA and you see Guns N’Roses and Motley Crue doing the whole tattoo business and ripping them (Rose Tattoo) off completely. They (Guns N’Roses) even did one of their songs in their set, “Nice Boys (Don’t Play Rock’n’Roll)”.”

The Gunners later played “Nice Boys” live for the first time in two years during their first encore.

There is barely a stage set, just the familiar Guns N’Roses logo draped across a curtain, black amps and a drum riser so small it would embarrass the humblest of pub bands. The lighting is unspectacular, to be polite. But you don’t look away. Not for a minute. Rose, an enigma of the highest order, is firey, volatile and utterly hyperactive.

Lead guitarist Slash is dropping more and more notes as his bottle of Jack Daniels becomes progressively empty. But his ambling from one side of the stage to the other, his Chuck Berry bunnyhops and his impossibly lock, curly, face-covering hair, make him the flashiest lead guiatarist around, bar none. More flash than Vai or Neilson (who once punched him out)  or Young or anyone.

By comparison, Keith Richards lookalike rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, blonde drummer Steven Adler and leering bassist Duff McKagan are unobtrusive and play well.

Rose, who left the stage up to 10 times during the two-hour set to be administered oxygen and brush his hair, announced he had “been on drugs the last few days”. He takes medication after being diagnosed as manic depressive, so despite what police minister Ted Pickering later suggested, Rose’s words are not an admission of guilt.

In introducing “Mr Brownstone”, which is about drug use, Rose warns “anything that comes between you and your dreams is fucked”.

During “Nice Boys”, Rose reaches for the microphone only to find it not on its stand. Without warning, he dived headlong into the seething crowd and is followed by three horrified security guards.

Just as they managed to haul a sockless Rose out, he keeled over and fell back again.

Exhausted fans are constantly being plucked from the stageside crush and large groups of security staff can often be seen sprinting to the back of the hall to break up fights. The hall shouts “hey fuckers” in unison at Slash’s prompting.

There could be a riot, if Axl decided he wanted one. He doesn’t. In fact he constantly pleads with his captive audience to behave itself. This is clearly not just another gig – this is a band of angry young men at its peak produced enough electricity to light up all of New South Wales for the night. What live rock used to be. Sure, they’re hitting some bum notes and being arrogant, but if you want polite perfection, go listen to Mozart.

“One of the main reasons this band got together was a song called ‘Take A Long Line’,” Rose announces.

Earlier, Doc Neeson had donned his best three-piece suit as the second on a three-band bill. Their new set, with an elevated rhythm section and a good light show, was far more elaborate than those of the headliners.

Neeson, too, was giving everything in the sweat department. His eclectic, frenzied movements returned to their pre-wheelchair pace and he ventured into the stalls for an enthusiastic recitation of “Marseilles”.

– STEVE MASCORD

Filed for ON THE STREET Appeared January 4, 1989

BON JOVI, Sydney Entertainment Centre, 1989

Live review: BON JOVI/ROXUS at Sydney Entertainment Centre, November 3 1989

I THOUGHT Jon Bon Jovi was joshin’ when he was quoted a little while back as saying Elvis “is living inside me”. But here he is, his spandex-coated posterior pointed at the audience, doing a bloody hip swivel exactly like the Pelvis himself.
And what’s all this new talking during the downbeats in songs? Springsteen?
As the New Jerseytour powers into its second year (tonight is the second show of the 13th month), a couple of facts are glaringly obvious. Firstly, this is a much better Jovi concert for your 32 bucks than the last one. While the rather less frenetic material in the current album pales by cmparison to its predecessor, it balanced the live show out masterfully. As musicians, the BJs have progressed nicely and are tighter than Richie Sambora’s pants these days.
Secondly, it appears Jon has maybe become a bit of a cardboard cutout for himself. Two unsuccessful albums into his career, Mr Noo Joisy didn’t have much time to think about his image. Twenty-two million records later, he’s rambling about being a gangster and Elvis and has almost forgotten poor Superman.
Somewhere mid-set, he comments “I love Australia, the girls here are so easy”. What are you trying to prove, Jon? It sounds like something or Lemmy would say, not a permed megastar who was married six months ago. If it was meant to be shocking, it only managed to come across as very daft. Maybe it’s all that touring with Sebastian Bach.
The sound tonight is deplorable, but such is the visual maelstrom some would have forgiven this small defect if not for Jon’s incessant mumbling. He mumbles under Sambora’s wail, in between Tico Torres’ thumps and in spite of David Bryan and Alec Jon Such’s efforts. No-one• knows what he’s saying maybe it’s the gibberish in the “Lay Your Hands On Me” intro that he missed reciting at the beginning of the show.
Indeed it would be sad if Bon jovi lost their sincerity up their own arse but I’m sure that will never happen.
Such vague misgivings aside, it was simply astounding tonight how compelling a band could be for so long. No-one looked away, onlya few sat down, as the jovis switched gears from “You Give Love A Bad Name” down to “Living in Sin” and back up again to “Let it Rock” with scarcely a jolt.
The diversity provided by two hit albums was the secret to a much improved showing than the Slippery Tour. The new effect where Jon flys up and out for the floor was not in use here, but they compensated by showing the band leaving their rooms on a giant catwalk, which gives all 14,000 of us ghastly close-up views of sweaty Americans. It’s that much better than the posy trapese act.
Roxus, who seem to get every HR support in Australia now, were also infinitely tighter than during their opening slot with Poison. Perhaps because they are, still, a poor man’s Bon jovi. New guitarist Dragon is a bit more showy than departed Joe Cool’ and the amount of new material is quite unbelievable. “Heartbeat City“, “Don’t Stop” and “Stand Back” all leap at ya, while the grand synth-laced “Body Heat” remains a masterpiece live. What a shame the studio version sucks so much.
Bon Jovi has now played 200 shows to over two and a half million people on this tour, supporting an album which has sold less. They got it right in the studio in 1986 and on stage this year.
Imagine if they managed to do both at once.
STEVE MASCORD

CHOIRBOYS, Shellharbour Workers, 1989

Live review: CHOIRBOYS at Shellharbour Workers Club, December 1989

MARK Gable is on his knees, like some masochistic, shirtless guru. He shrieks shockingly. “bloody politicians suck”, the lights swirling around him on an otherwise darkened stage. “When are they going to give us decent roads? Do you have to die every time you go to Brisbane?”
The day before, 36 people had perished when two busses  collided head-on at Kempsey on New South Wales’ north coast. Tonight, New South Wales’ south coast raises its collective fist and yells in anger. Choirboys guitarist Brett Williams begins plucking chillingly and Guilty explodes as the lights come up again.
I didn’t think the Choirboys could astonish me any further, but tonight they became — firmly  — the best live band in Australia as far as I’m concerned. Feeding off a rabid crowd, Gable hurled himself into the performance (and into the crowd) with breathtaking conviction. They move right, they look right, they sound right. The Choirboys are, perhaps, still seen by a few
people as a suburban pub grog-rock irrelevancy. . . by those who underestimate the intelligence of the masses and in doing so expose their own stupidity. For a bunch of north shore boys, though, The Choirboys capture the entire suburban ethos better than anyone, and wrap the whole thing up with boundless hooks and intimidating but genial LOUDness.
To say any other band is “heir apparent” to the Oz hard rock throne is pure stupidity. They have an atmosphere of completeness about them that none of their competition has. Melody, hooks, riffs, attitude.
You realise what it must’ve been like to see Cold Chisel in a pub after just two albums when “Run To Paradise” winds up. No wanky “this is our hit, lets extend itto 60 minutes” intro, just a bit of a communal singalong and a strange tingly feeling down your spine. For mine, “Fireworks” and encore centrepiece “We’re Never Gonna Die” say it all. To be a little young, a little drunk, a little arrogant and very happy, chanting “We’re Never Gonna Die” is surely a large portion of what rock ‘n’ roll is about.
They have all the moves, minus the cock-rock pelvic thrusts and drooping tongues. Gable’s voice is the indestructably unmatchable, Williams plays the guitar like it really is attached to him, Doc Neeson-lookalike Ian Hulme is one of the most interesting-looking bassmen around and in Lindsay Tebbutt the Choirboys have a personality-plus skinsman.
If only they had churned out material when they were told — they would surely be in the stadiums already. If only the audience had accepted Gable’s invite for a drink at his place — I would have had a great story!
It occurs to me as I see him turn that horrible “Whiter Shade Of Pale” song into a masterpiece with his soaring vocal that you almost have to slag off 10 bands before anyone will listen to you when you throw superlatives at one.
• Well the next ten bands I review better watch out, because this was the best club gig I can remember seeing. — STEVE MASCORD 

BULLETBOYS at Key Club, West Hollywood, 2011

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Live review: BULLETBOYS at Key Club, West Hollywood, December 30 2012

WITH all the current eulogising about the years of Sunset Strip ruling the rock world, one fact is overlooked: the staggering apathy Los Angeles fans are, and always have been, capable of.

At one stage late in tonight’s show, Bulletboys drummer Jimi D’anda – wearing only a pair of red briefs with the insignia of superhero The Flash on the front – walks to the lip of the stage and shouts: “hey! This is the first time these guys have been on stage together in years and years. You’re just sitting there saying ‘oh, cool’. Make some noise, you bastards!”

At the end of a week which has seen Van Halen wind up rehearsals a couple of doors away at the Roxy, a band once accused of being their overly slavish acolytes has reassembled with its original lineup for the first time in just under two decades. That’s Di’anda, singer Marq Torien, bassist Lonnie Vencent and guitarist Mick Sweda.

An off-kilter evening ends weirdly when the DJ says ‘there’s time for one more song’ and tries to get a chant going. The response is half-hearted.  Bulletboys – who had cut their set short by removing “Save Your Prayers” – do not return.

True, if this was a new band then the muted reaction would perhaps have been justified. It is a nervous start, there are some uncomfortable breaks between songs and arrangements occasionally seem muddled. But – supposedly – Hollywood bands of this era are these days due some reverence; presumably that’s why this reunion has happened in the first place.

However, the mood in the Key Club – relatively full but not as packed as it is for some midweek Steel Panther residencies – is strangely subdued.  As at a Steel Panther show, the floor is dotted with luminaries from Ratt, Whitesnake and LA Guns.

Despite the rustiness, it’s clear these are four very accomplished hard rock musicians. Spinning, whirling Torien’s range is largely intact, Vencent – shirtless for much of the night – is as visual a bassist as you will see this side of Gene Simmons, D’anda is aggressive and impressive while the accomplished Sweda looks something of a cartoon character with his un-ironic rock posturing and grey corkscrew curls.

At first they seem to be trying a little too hard. But when ‘Kissin’ Kitty” off the 1988 debut is rolled out, it all starts to come together. This was not a great gig – not at all – but it marked the first steps of a beast that has been dormant for a long time. In many ways, Bulletboys were less than the sum of their parts tonight but that will change with practice and opportunity.

Bulletboys are/were a darker, less gregarious Van Halen. Torien – who has kept the brand alive in the absence of the other three – calls Sweda his best friend at one stage and the others the best at their respective instruments in the world – all of which makes you wonder why they disintegrated in the first place.

“The four of us are never going to break up again,” Torien says near fulltime. Hopefully they can get out of Hollywood and find some “bastards” who care.

STEVE MASCORD

Filed for: CLASSIC ROCK PRESENTS: AOR