Sunday, September 30, 2012

Blistering Solos, Superb (and likable) Singer Make for a Scintillating Slash n' Burn Evening -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators
with Foxy Shazam, The Lovehammers
Riviera Theatre, Chicago
September 28, 2012

I certainly have no real knowledge of the bones of contention between Axl Rose and Slash (and the rest of Guns N’ Roses) that brought about GnR’s premature breakup and subsequent unilateral resurrection--and hired-hand propagation--by Axl.

But based on my perceptions over the years, I side with Slash.

Certainly, the guitarist formerly known as Saul Hudson–and his fellow ostracized Gunners–have had well-publicized  substance issues during and since the band’s late-‘80s/early-90s heyday, and who knows if Slash is a wonderful guy. But Axl, while a terrifically talented singer and musician, has long seemed like one of the world’s biggest assholes.

If nothing else--though Axl's actions have perpetually been cringe-inducing--when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, Slash was open to, and even hoping for, a full reunion of the original lineup. But Axl, who has recorded and toured under the Guns N' Roses moniker with substitute sidemen for years now, didn't show up and asked not to be inducted or mentioned. Plus, he banned fans from wearing Slash shirts to his shows.

I never saw Guns N' Roses back in their heyday, in part because of Axl's known tendency not to take the stage until after midnight, regardless of the listed showtime. Although I did see, and enjoy, Axl's version of GnR in 2002, his proclivity for disrespectful tardiness and other lunacy largely prompted me to skip last year's show at the Allstate Arena--which started after 11pm but did garner strong reviews.

Well, even though there's a ton of dough to be made from a true Guns N' Roses reunion, and I would certainly show up for one, if Slash can make a decent living playing shows like he did Friday night at a considerably less-than-full Riviera, I think he may be all the better for leaving Axl completely in the rearview mirror.

With another tempestuous singer--Scott Weiland--seemingly having mothballed Velvet Revolver (which featured Slash and other ex-Gunners), Slash has now hooked up with a tremendously talented vocalist who seemingly comes without all the drama.

Myles Kennedy is the lead singer of Alter Bridge, a band I've never listened to because it was otherwise made up of guys from Creed. But he was also chosen to work with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham a few years ago when they were trying to get Robert Plant to agree to a reunion tour. So I assumed he had pretty good chops, and though Apocalyptic Love, the 2012 album by "Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators"--I suggest Slash N' Burn as a better band name--isn't on par with GnR's Appetite for Destruction, it has a fair share of good songs.

So while the chance to hear several Guns N' Roses classics, plus a couple of Velvet Revolver singles--all impressively handled by an amiable Kennedy, who apologized for being under the weather despite sounding great--was what brought me to the Riv, what made the performance an even more rousing success was the solidity of the new songs and others from past Slash projects.

Ferocious renditions of GnR's "Nightrain," "Civil War," "Rocket Queen" (featuring blow-your-mind soloing from Slash), "Out Ta Get Me" (wonderfully sung by bassist Todd Kerns), "Sweet Child o' Mine" and the closing "Paradise City" were a sheer delight, but tracks like "No More Heroes," "Anastasia" and "You're A Lie," among others, filled out a well-balanced, well-paced setlist--see it here--and showed that this wasn't simply a Guns N' Roses tribute band with a singer that may be even better than Axl these days.

As for Slash, while I've loved his work with Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver, I've admittedly given more heed to his unique look and having one of rock's best stage names than properly appreciating him as a virtuoso guitarist.

Well, forget the fact that they don't make uniquely-styled rock gods like Slash anymore. Throughout a generous 2-hour show, he delivered one of the most amazing performances I've ever seen from a guitar player.

Song after song featured blistering yet soulful solos, and on a extended instrumental bluesy jam--but not just then--his fretwork was jaw-dropping.

In a month in which I've seen Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Maximo Park, Madonna, Prince and Peter Gabriel, this was a show I'd been eyeballing but wasn't sure I was going to catch. Fortunately for me, walk-up tickets were readily available at the Riv and a balcony seat was easy to come by. Not only was it a supremely enjoyable blast-from-the-past, with the present and future also boding well for Slash, Myles and crew (Kerns, guitarist Frank Sidoris and drummer Brent Fitz were co-Conspirators), but it wound up being--somewhat surprisingly so--one of the best concerts I've seen in 2012.

There were even two rather enjoyable opening acts. First up was Chicago's Lovehammers, which delivered a solidly hard-rocking yet melodic 20-minute set in which it was clear why frontman Marty Casey got some acclaim on the short-lived Rock Star reality show few years back.

Foxy Shazam
And then came the oddest rock band I've ever witnessed: Foxy Shazam. Featuring a spasmodic singer named Eric Sean Nally who kept doing somersaults, a hyper-kinetic keyboardist who at one point played while crowd-surfing and a shirtless, freaky-dancing horn player, they were--as I heard a nearby audience member say--"either psychotic or brilliant."

Or both, as despite all the nuttiness, they had several songs that sounded pretty good, including one called "Unstoppable." To get a sense of what I'm talking about, here's a clip of them doing "I Like It" recently in Indianapolis.

And to get a sense of how good Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators were, here's a YouTube clip of "Sweet Child O' Mine" someone (stakbrown80; click for more vids) shot at the Riv:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great review of Slash and of the Myles/Slash tour. I saw them in Altanta. Concert was great! Good recap also and comments re: Axl and G'N R. I agree that Axl is brilliant musician/singer, and only know what I have read and heard of all the 'history'.
I definitely continue to follow both Slash, Myles, and Axl.