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.

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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

SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY & THE CONSPIRATORS – Apocalyptic Love

Album review: SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY AND THE CONSPIRATORS – Apocalyptic Love

NO matter the PR spin, this is step back for Slash from his eponymous all-star solo album of 2010. The iconic former GN’R axeman has returned to a band environment, with Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy getting second billing, drummer Brent Fitz and bassist Todd Kearns providing back-up.

The result is an album best compared to the two Slash’s Snakepit releases. It’s clear from all three albums what the top-hatted one brought to Guns N’Roses – a no-nonsense hard rock attack in comparison to Axl Rose’s  epic melodrama, still evident on Chinese Democracy.

Both Apocalyptic Love and Chinese Democracy are unsatisfying for the same reason – they are estranged halves of something truly great.

In case that sounds like the musings of another miserable GN’R reunionist, here’s another reason why this reviewer sees Apocalyptic Love as Slash’s weakest album since leaving the Gunners.

While his cohorts in Slash’s Snakepit were unabashedly influenced by eighties hair metal, Kennedy’s involvement nudges this platter in the direction of modern rock – making it further removed from what we all loved about Slash in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong: if you love Alter Bridge you’ll like this. I don’t like Alter Bridge. At all.

I can understand how the soaring choruses and tightly-wound riffs push the buttons of their fans – but the buttons Desmond Child once played like a piano (mine) are impervious to their 21st century emo siren’s call.

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GUNS N’ROSES: In Sydney, Guns Blazing (1988)

By STEVE MASCORD

BLINK, and you’ll miss a band being compared to the Rolling Stones. Everyone from the Monkees to Crowded House to your local pub group have probably been likened so the Beatles on different occasions. But it’s a tough job being compared to the Rolling Stones. The Stones don’t just represent a musical watershed. The Stones were not so much a reflection of modern rock’n’roll music as of modern rock’n’roll, full stop. Of sleaze, of self abuse, of arrogance, of cockiness, and, consequently, of genius.

And that’s why Guns N’Roses have attracted the hallowed comparison. They personify decadence with their attitude and look, and institutionalise it with their music. So far, they’ve inherited the kingdom so many wanted — W Axl Rose and his band of street kids not only purport to be bad guys, they are.

They admit to having sold drugs to the “second Stones”, Aerosmith. The five Gunners lived in a small studio for months, burning drumsticks as firewood and holding parties fur pimps and drug pushers in a parking lot next door. They courted record companies just for the free meals.

And like classically inconsiderate rock’n’roll bands, they have stories to back up their boasts.  Chicago:  Axl punches a businessman in a bar who calls him a Jon Bon Jovi lookalike; Philadelphia; Axl gets in a fight with a parking lot attendant and is jailed but is released in time to sing;  Hamburg: the guitarist Izzy Stradlin and bassist Duff ‘Rose’ McKagan beat up Faster Pussycat’s drummer, wrap him in tape and leave him in an elevator; Saratoga Springs: a riot is narrowly avoided when 25,000 fans threaten to invade the stage.

According to one wag: “Guns N’Roses are what every other LA band pretends to be”.

The songs on Appetite For Destruction, which at last count had sold six million copies in the US alone, were written by juvenile delinquents with plenty of anger and not much time for airs and graces. It’s effacing, rude, piercing and, to many, unlistenable. But it’s not pretentious

The vinyl insolence has only been magnified, or rather immortalised, by the album’s fearless escapades through wimp-infested charts. It hung around like a literal bad smell until a sobering ballad called “Sweet Child O’Mine” started to surface and propelled the long-player to number one in the US. The single followed suit. The fortune was made, the immediate future assured, the bandwagon jumped.

Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy, Duff ‘Rose’ McKagan and Steven Adler now face a new battle just as tough as those they faced when they were penniless on the streets of LA: how to be millionaires and still sound angry and damn mad.

They will get drunk on cheap wine and get in trouble. And the time-honoured American fascination with young kids who go from the basement to the penthouse only keeps pushing them to a higher penthouse.

“I don’t care if people think we’ve got a bad attitude,” says guitarist Stradlin. “We’re the only band to come out of LA that’s real. And the kids know it.”

Led by unkempt, defiant and certified manic depressive Axl Rose, Guns N’Roses have entranced a generation looking for heroes who don’t have their photos taken in Mercedes. A Guns N’Roses t-shirt is almost as common in the western suburbs of Australian cities as a CD player in the affluent areas.

They sold out two shows in Melbourne and 5500 tickets in the first hour in Sydney.

Slash won’t tell anyone his real name. He was born in Stoke On Trent in England 23 years ago but he was still young when his parents moved to Hollywood. His father designed album covers, his mother suits for people like David Bowie.

It was Slash who reportedly placed the ad in the LA paper which eventually spawned the Gunners.

When we called his apartment on Sunset Boulevard, he was not there. A girl called Kimberley answers the phone and tells us she’s his girlfriend. Slash is leaving tomorrow for Japan and she’s a bit upset. Are you planning a big farewell? “No, just a private one (giggles).”

She tells us Slash has just walked in and is “urinating with his pet spider” before the initially withdrawn guitarist takes to the line.

OTS: Hi Slash. What have you been up to?

Slash: “What have I been doing? I can’t even go into detail. Who cares?”

OTS: How long is it since you played a show?

Slash: “Four months. No, three months. We’re gonna go to Japan for the first gig and suck miserably. Isn’t that terrible?”

OTS: I supposed you’ve been partying for a few months, or have you got withdrawal symptoms?

Slash: “I’m the guy in the band that works constantly. I’m always working so, you know, I find it very hard to be not working I guess.”

OTS: What about comments that ‘oh, they’ll be dead in two years’? is there any basis to that?

Slash: (laughs, Kimborley giggles in the background). Uh . . (laughs)  …  um sorry, I’m beieg distracted. Anyway, what was I gonna say?No, I won’t be dead in two years.

OTS: Since the album has gone to well and you’ve had to work so hard, do you think anyone in the band has quietened down to any extent?

Slash: “Not really. The subject of the album, the reasons behind doing that, hasn’t really changed much.”

OTS: It doesn’t worry you that you can no longer walk around the streets and keep in touch with the things that inspired the album?

Slash: Well, there are little problems here and there as far as trying to maintain any animosity (ed: I think he means ‘anonymity’), but otherwise, no, not much of a change. You get recognised a lot more.”

OTS: Is that what the album is based on? Animosity?

Slash: “What, the actual album? It isn’t based on anything. It’s just our album. It’s just our album, y’know?”

OTS: Does Axl still show up before the show and leave straight after?

Slash: He sleeps a lot and he’s gotta keep his voice together. It’s not a matter of drugs or attitude or anything like that. I mean, hanging around with the rest of us is a bad influence on him. He’s gotta take care of his vocal chords, y’know?”

OTS: It must be hard for him though….

Slash: “Well yeah, it is hard. He has tendancy to break down every so often.”

OTS: How much do think the lifestyle and the image sells your records? I know image sells rock’n’roll anyway….

Slash: ”I know that’s true. But I try not th think of it that way because that’s not where our heads are set or what we set out to do. So I try not to take it too seriously and I try not to make myself bigger than life. If you start believing your own hype that’s when it starts to go downhill. You go out and do what you feel natural doing and all the consequences and everything that goes with it will just happen by itself.”

OTS: Do you think all the success has sunk into the band yet or are you still on a high?

Slash: “Everybody’s still a little bit spaced out by it. I don’t think it’s been fully realised by anybody, which is cool.”

OTS: I suppose you’d start to get a bit complacent if you did fully realise it….

Slash: Yeah you would, wouldn’t you? Like, ‘things are just TOO cool”.

OTS: So what do you do to relax now?

Slash: “What do I do to relax? What do you do to relax? I drink and  … and have sex (Kimberley giggles again). I play music too. I do have spare time more than anything else.”

OTS: “Where can you go on the next album? How can you stay away from just singing about being a rock star?

Slash: “We’re not gonna. Who cares? I mean, there’s plenty of other stuff to sing about, there’s other bullshit. I mean, the bigger you get, the bigger the problems. The bigger the problems, the more stuff you have to write about.”

OTS: But isn’t staying in touch with your audience a problem when you’re isolated?

Slash: “Only when you’re off the road. When you’re on the road, you keep in touch a lot.”

OTS: Do you go out incognito and try and just talk to people?

Slash: “How on earth can we go out incognito? What, do we put on our Groucho moustaches or something?

OTS: What about the bumout facto? When people say you won’t be alive in two years, does that make you angry and want to prove them wrong?

Slash: “Actually, to tell you the truth I don’t look that far ahead. I know it sounds very un-indepth and it sounds like I’m not looking into it very deeply but I really don’t see any purpose in it. Like any band … it’s so insignificant. I think people take themselves too seriously. It’s like, you go out, you play, you make an album, people listen to it and it’s like a sort of escapism. You keep doing what you’re doing and be good at it ‘til people aren’t interested in it anymore. And then you’re out. People who think they’re going to be the next biggest thing for the next 10 years and try to make a lot of big comments and trying to make a lot of big statements and stuff … I really think you should just go out and do what you’re good at for as long as people are interested. As long as you keep some integrity and not worry about the bullshit.”

Filed for: ON THE STREET