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GIG REVIEW: Slash at the Hammersmith Apollo 06-06-2012

Before I go any further I need to state, for the record (and yes, Theblackflag keeps records. We have one on you as well you know…), that I am...

Before I go any further I need to state, for the record (and yes, Theblackflag keeps records. We have one on you as well you know…), that I am a massive Slash fan. I was a huge fan of Guns N’ Roses, a big fan of Velvet Revolver and an enormous fan of Slash’s most recent solo work. So this review will feature a few superlatives, a few sycophantic remarks and some downright idolisation. You, dear reader, have been warned…. I arrived at the Apollo missing the key ingredient to enjoy an evening in the company of a certified rock legend – a ticket! I was therefore having to put my faith in the abilities of a ‘ticket street vendor’, ie: a tout, to supply me my ‘golden ticket’. Fresh from a spot of haggling I acquired a ticket and now proclaiming to be ‘Jason Jeffrey’ I queued up and entered the Apollo, along with a wide variety of people many of whom were wearing a sea of ‘band T-shirts’- ranging from G ‘N’ R to Velvet Revolver to…um..Saxon. (In fairness there was only one Saxon T-shirt!)

The second support act was in full flow whilst I took my seat (only luxury for the blackflag) and it would do them a disservice if I were not to at least mention them. Halestorm are a 4 piece band hailing from Pennsylvania USA, featuring brother and sister Arejay and Lzzy. Their brand of music has a nice variety to it, ranging from heavy and rhythmic to more rock/indie flavours but one thing remained a constant- Lzzy’s powerful vocal, often soaring out across the venue helping to whip the crowd up and win over a few new fans in the process. I have to say, I was really impressed by them and having done some research on them I am not surprised I was. They have supported Disturbed, Theory of a Deadman and Avengefold Seven to name but a few. They seem to be constantly on tour, often racking up 250 shows a year which explains their extremely tight and well rehearsed performance. Their second album, ‘The strange case of….’ was released in April of this year and will definitely be gracing the review pages in the near future.

Slash is currently touring to promote his second solo album, ‘Apocalyptic Love’, and I hadn’t , up until the gig, heard any of it so I was as keen to listen to his new material as I was to hear the ‘classics’. In fact five songs from the new album were played and all were received really well by the audience, a good majority of whom – when asked by Myles Kennedy – had already snapped up the special edition copies of the album which are available prior to it going on general release. The pick of the new songs, for me, was actually one that they played due to fan pressure – Anastasia. It was one of the more heavy songs of the night but allowed both Kennedy and Slash to do what they do best. Kennedy has a great voice and this song allowed him to showcase it nicely and we all know what Slash does best! Three tracks from his previous solo album – including ‘Doctor Alibi’ sung by bassist Todd Kerns in almost a homage to Lemmy who sung it originally,three from his snakepit days and one from VR meant that Slash was delving equally into his extensive back catalogue as well as promoting his new material. For this fan though, hearing the four G ‘N’ R songs was the highlight of the night. ‘Nightrain’, ‘Rocket Queen’ (with an amazing extended guitar solo in the middle), ‘Sweet Child O’Mine and the encore song, ‘Paradise City’ were greeted nosiest of all by the crowd and sounded as fresh now as they did when Slash played with them Axl and Co.

Slash’s guitar playing was a sight to behold and his many iconic ‘guitar god’ stances were thrown out with aplomb during the course of the evening. The band were tight and energetic and yet clearly aware of just who the crowd had come to see and were more than happy hugging the back of the stage, allowing Slash and Kennedy to work the crowd. In Kennedy, Slash has found a front man who not only can work a crowd and take centre stage when required too but also is happy to allow him his space to indulge in his extended virtuoso solos. On Slash’s front, he is clearly making an effort to portray them as a band –one unit – rather than an individual being supported by some able musicians. And yet, whilst I was delighted to finally see Slash live and to hear some of my favourite songs ever played, I was also a little disappointed. Kennedy, at times, during the G ‘N’ R songs seemed to be almost doing an Axl impression with both his stage act and his vocals. Kennedy is not a naturally ‘high’ singer, unlike Axl, and yet his renditions of the G ‘N’ R tracks seemed almost pitch perfect to the originals. It felt sometimes that this was a tribute act rather than one allowing the band to do their own take on the original songs. I guess most of all, it reminded me that we – in all likelihood – will never see Axl and Slash share the same stage again. However, the above is only the musing from one misty eye Guns N Roses fan and in no way should it detract from what was a great gig and a great night. Slash clearly loved playing at the Apollo, often mentioning it in between songs, and one felt that had the management not come on stage at 11pm to enforce the end of the show, they could have played on for many more hours. Seeing Slash’s two step dance whilst ripping out the solos in ‘Paradise City’ will live long in the memory and next time he tours I, for one, won’t leave seeing him to chance – my ticket will be bought months in advance…. Words: Brian McKay Buy Apocalyptic Love (feat. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators) from Amazon Mp3