Steel Panther infects London (not that London, the other one)

Live/Concerts

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Glam-rockers Steel Panther have found themselves in a unique position where they hold the place of bands they once parodied and paid homage to. The band’s career mirrors the words of Mötley Crüe’s Kickstart My Heart, “When we started this band all we needed was a laugh. Years gone by, I’d say we kicked some a**.” Having previously opened for established bands like KISS and Judas Priest, Steel Panther is now more than capable of selling tickets on their own and that’s just what they did at the London Music Hall on Monday night. No, not that London. The Canadian town of London, Ontario.

“I’m going to smack the botox off your face,” says Satchel, Steel Panther’s brown-haired guitar virtuoso, as he glares at the band’s pink-clad bassist Lexxi Foxx.

That’s the essence of Steel Panther right there. If you don’t enjoy enjoy insults, political incorrectness, lewd acts and steady doses of Van Halen — get out. If it looks as if the sunset-strip Hair-Metallers are constantly touring, it’s only because they are. Fresh off Live From Lexxi’s Mom and an New-Zealand-Australia tour, the band are squeezing Canada by the balls before an impending 3 month-long tour of Europe (or European, as Lexxi calls it) and a brand-new album due later this year.

Steel Panther is no nostalgia trip. At least, not on this particular night. The crowd for the most part, looks to young to relieve the era of spandex, pooffy hair and big riffs. Prior to the show, Ratt’s Round and Round and Gypsy Road by Cinderella are blasting through loud speakers only to be met with little to no reaction. This is not a “Hair-Metal” crowd, per se.

There were very little amount of leopard print items to be found in the Canadian audience — they’re simply here to have their faces rocked like hurricanes. I lost count of how many Megadeth shirt I saw in the audience on this night. By contrast I observed exactly one wig-wearing Panther-lite individual (with zebra-spandex, of course). This was a heavy metal crowd and Steel Panther is some sort metal.

Charismatic frontman Michael Starr channels 50 shades of David Lee Roth. Starr is one of the rare metal singers who sounds as good live as he does in the studio. Court jester extraordinaire Satchel, formerly of Rob Halford’s Two breathes some life to the term “guitar hero”, mostly absent in the past decade. Bassist Lexxi Foxx, who tries his best to look like a glammed-up peacock, spends the evening pouting and touching-up his makeup in his mirror to the point where playing the bass is secondary. Aside from a gag involving his name, Stix Zadinia looks a little more quiet behind his drums, although it might be only because he’s busy providing the backbeat of the band’s sound.

Steel Panther played a 16-song set filled with the only the sleaziest songs from it’s catalogue —minus That’s When You Came In— the way it should be. There’s a only a small sample of the band’s latest album, All You Can Eat, the band choosing instead to rely on road-tested material from their first two studio albums Feel The Steel and Balls Out. Kicking off with Eyes of the Panther —perhaps the only “serious” song in their unique repertoire— the momentum never waivers.

From favourites like the sexist Fat Girl (Thar She Blows) to the racy matter in Asian Hooker bypassing the misogynistic number 17 Girls ln A Row, there is truly something to offend each and every one of your neighbour. The loudest reactions come during the ballads Community Property and Oklahoma Girl proving that while power-ballads may get a bad rap, in some settings they thrive. In what is clearly a touching moment during the band’s most popular song, Community Property, no Fanther in the audience can keep a straight face singing the lyrics like lead singer Michael Starr can and that’s strangely endearing.

Most of the comedy in the show is new, some is obviously recycled from the past such as this nugget (previously heard at Toronto’s Sound Academy a little over a year ago) : “[this girl] is of legal age, which is 13 years-old in Ontario,” says Satchel. “I know because I checked on Wikipedia.”

Or the fan-favourite (again from Sound the Academy but two years ago this time) : “How about we lock the doors and play until 6 AM?”

After witnessing the Panthers live a grand total of four times, it was somewhat of a shock to see the action on stage slightly toned down this time around. Unsubtle innuendos and sex jokes are still a part of the band’s ever-expending repertoire. Girls are still invited on stage. However, in London there is little of the usual “shows us your t***” that comes with the territory of a Steel Panther concert. The girls onstage remained clothed and surprisingly, well-behaved.

Steel Panther knows how to put on a show, there’s not denying that. They’re fun, exciting and fascinating to watch. It’s impossible to look away when the Sunset Strip rockers take over the stage. The problem with putting on the best show possible for the fans is it requires a certain portion of the show to be choreographed. However, this time it seemed a little too planned. In fact, Satchel was wearing the exact same clothes as when l saw the band last year! Hair-Metal sin? You decide.

Let’s hope next time they visit Steel Panther bring fresh jokes and mix things up a little.

***.1/2 /*****
Setlist:

Eyes of a Panther
Tomorrow Night
Fat Girl (Thar She Blows)
Just Like Tiger Woods
Play Video
Let Me Cum In
Asian Hooker
Gold Digging Whore
Satchel Guitar Solo
Ten Strikes You’re Out
Girl From Oklahoma
17 Girls in a Row
Gloryhole
Eatin’ Ain’t Cheatin’
Death to All but Metal

Encore:
Community Property
Party All Day (Fuck All Night)

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Guns N’Roses’ triumphant return to Toronto

Concerts, Features, Live/Concerts, Uncategorized

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The calm before the storm. Guns N’Roses July 16 at Rogers Centre, Toronto by: Morais, Tommy.

     Freshly reunited (sorta) rockers Guns N’Roses made the only Canadian stop of their ongoing North-American tour at the Rogers Centre on Saturday night.

The tour —dubbed the Not In This Lifetime tour— offered young generations of concert-goers the chance to catch the band they thought they’d never see while granting another opportunity for longtime fans to witness the gunners in a live setting once more.

The unpredictability of the band kept the packed Rogers Centre on it’s feet. Would the band breakup on this momentous occasion? Would Axl lose it? That uncertainty is part of the ritual that comes with attending a GNR concert. On this night there were no hints of tension or drama as Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan shared the same stage.

It was a far cry from the Guns N’Roses that played Toronto just two short years ago when they hit the Sound Academy stage with Axl the sole remainder of the band’s glory days. The lineup then consisted of Rose with several musicians who would be unknown to anyone who hasn’t kept up with the band in 25 years. Flash forward two years to a sold-out crowd of 50,000 as the current version of the band appears on the top of the world bringing rock to Toronto— and the masses.

Although members of GNR’s original lineup have kept busy with various projects over time —including notable absentees Izzy Stradlin (who isn’t a part of the tour) and Steven Adler (who briefly performed guest spots on the tour in Cincinnati and Nashville) — Axl, Slash and Duff looked to be right at home onstage at the Roger Centre with the band that made them household names and members of the Rock N’Roll Hall of Fame. It may not be the full-fledged original lineup, but that didn’t stop fans from buying tickets in ’92-93 during the Use Your Illusion/Spaghetti Incident-era when neither Izzy or Steven where around. Why should it now?

The lineup was rounded out with longtime members Dizzy Reeds on keyboards, Richard Fortus (who could very well pass for the son of longtime Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood) on guitar, Frank Ferrer on drums and fresh face Melissa Reese on keys and vocals. With a few shows under their collective belt, this lineup of the sunset-strip rockers brought a well-oiled production to Toronto.

The Gunners took the stage around 9:45 PM, almost on time —and practically spot-on by it’s previously established standards—and surprisingly early for a band notorious for being especially late. The machine that is Guns N’Roses had the audience in the palm of its hand with opener It’s So Easy. Welcome To The Jungle received the biggest pop of the night. “You Know where you are Toronto?”, announces Axl to roars from the sold-out crowd.  The song’s reception was rivalled perhaps only by that of Sweet Child O’Mine‘s and Paradise City‘s. Songs from Appetite for Destruction were played side by side with material from the Axl-lead Chinese Democracy —including Better and the new added, Sorry—along with classic Use Your Illusion I & II era favourites like Civil War and the long epic November Rain (complete with Axl on piano).

The band played a massive minute set clocking in at just under 3 hours, comprising 27 songs including a guitar duel between Slash and Fortus and a 4 song encore. The last time I saw Guns N’Roses live circa 2010 they played a set that was just as long at 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Unlike the notorious frontman’s wardrobe changes (Roses loves his hats; cowboy, Crocodile Dundee-inspired, sombrero-style, it’s all good in his book), interactions with the crowd were kept to a minimum except for some Canada-related banter. Until Axl shared the woes experienced by the band at the Canadian border, that is. According to the frontman, someone from the organization brought a gun with them delaying their entrance in the country.

“They were very nice, they were very understanding. You know, it happens: You can forget you have a fucking gun,” said Rose just before a rendition of the bad-boy anthem Out To Get Me“It wasn’t my gun”.

The matter wasn’t made public before the show, as such, fans in the audience got the “scoop” firsthand.

Was it worth the hype?

While it wasn’t the full-on Appetite for Destruction-era reunion many had hoped for, the 3/5 classic Guns members experience definitely brings a bang for the buck with their lengthy performance and expert musicianship.

Axl’s voice was in excellent shape throughout the concert as he displayed the wide vocal range he is known for. The only signs of wear in his voice happened during the closing encore Paradise City at the end of a complete near 30 song set. Judging by visible panting and the expressions on his face after hitting the high notes, Rose truly gives his all for the fans.

The enthusiastic crowd was also delighted to see Slash, the ever cool top-hat, leather clad guitar slinger. SkyDome was buzzing when the fuzzy-haired, Les Paul-clad guitarist played the blistering solos to songs like Sweet Child O’Mine, but admittedly it looked slightly out of place when Richard Fortus played the solos created by Slash.

Bassist Duff McKagan even got his share of the spotlight as he sang lead on Attitude as the gunners covered punk outfit The Misfits.

I will gladly tell anyone who will listen that I was at Guns N’Roses 2016 . I’ll proudly add, “I survived Guns N’Roses 2016, including scorching heat and a tight, rough crowd”.

****/*****

Setlist:

It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
(with Slash intro solo)
Estranged
Live and Let Die
(Wings cover)
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
Attitude
(Misfits cover) (with “You Can’t Put Your Arms… more )
This I Love
Civil War
(with Voodoo Child Outro)
Coma
(with band introductions)
Speak Softly Love (Love Theme From The Godfather)
(Andy Williams cover) (instrumental, Slash guitar solo)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Sorry
Better
Out Ta Get Me
Slash & Richard Fortus Guitar Duet
(“Wish You Were Here” with “Layla” outro)
November Rain
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
(Bob Dylan cover)
Nightrain

Encore:

Jam
(“Angie” by the Rolling Stones)
Patience
The Seeker
(The Who cover)
Paradise City

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An Idol strikes Rama

Live/Concerts, Music reviews

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Image: Billyidol.net

Armed with all the black leather in his closet, signature snarl and trademark bleached punk-hair, Idol rocked Rama on Wednesday night. 2016 marked the “White Wedding” singer’s return to Casino Rama stage for the first time in three years.

Idol showed no signs of slowing down at age 60, only pausing briefly for wardrobe changes and to take off his shirt.

The band opened with “Shock to the System”, a bold choice, before launching into a string of songs from all eras of his career ranging from new tunes such as the fist-pumper “Can’t Bring Me Down” (off Idol’s 2014 effort Kings & Queens of the Underground) right down to classic Generation X-era crowd-pleaser “Dancing With Myself”.

Idol, the man, is possessed on stage. With facial expressions that would make Linda Blair circa The Exorcist blush, he proved himself once more to be quite the ringleader. Even when the paces slows down and during weaker songs he remains in complete control, with his every move captivating the audience. His voice today is not quite what it was during it’s peak as Billy struggled with some of the higher notes but gave a commendable performance nonetheless. Idol’s energy and charisma more than made up for vocal limitations.

Idol, the band, worked as a tight and well-oiled cohesive unit after wearing decades of touring on their collective sleeves, and it shows. For far too long guitarist Steve Stevens has been an unsung hero of rock’n’roll, behind Billy Idol’s world-famous face. The raven-haired guitarist had the chance to show off his talents on multiple occasion with intimate solos spots as well as bits and pieces of Top Gun and Led Zeppelin to the delight of the crowd.

To the untrained ear, the catalogue selection would consist of somewhat obscure songs until the concert staples (save the best for last of course, of course) : “Rebel Yell”, “White Wedding”—performed acoustically in it’s first half with only Idol and Stevens before an electric finish with the full band— “Eyes Without a Face” and “Mony Mony” arrived much later in the set. The devoted fan knows that Billy played selections from new material, classic hits, and middle-day era Idol, effectively covering his entire recording career. Kicking off the show with “Shock to the System” from the underrated Cyber Punk album was pleasantly unexpected , well done Billy.

On this night two obvious favourites in the Billy Idol cannon —“Hot In The City” and “Flesh For Fantasy”— went missing from the setlist, nowhere to be seen (although the band did play Flesh the very next night in Ottawa).

The man with the perpetual sneer even found time between and during songs to sign the occasional records, book and piece of memorabilia for a some lucky fans in the first few rows.

Next time, I only ask Billy ldol to rightfully put “Flesh for Fantasy” in the setlist.

Setlist:
Shock to the System
Dancing With Myself (Generation X song)
Pumping on Steel
Scream
Can’t Break Me Down
Prodigal Blues
Eyes Without a Face
Steve Stevens Guitar Solo – Zeppelin Solos
Don’t Need a Gun
Cradle of Love
Blue Highway
Steve Stevens Guitar Solo
Rebel Yell

Encore:
White Wedding
Mony Mony (Tommy James & the Shondells cover)