I introduced my recent interview with Joe Satriani with the words, “Joe Satriani needs no introduction.” True enough — for the most part — but there remain music fans in the world who are completely unaware of the virtuoso guitarist and 15-time Grammy nominee. I know. I’ve met them. The same, however, cannot be said of Slash, known both for his scorching blues- and metal-infused guitar work in the original incarnation of Guns N’ Roses and for his iconic top hat.
That hat makes Slash one of the most recognizable figures in popular music, one of the few rock stars whose silhouette alone is instantly recognizable. (Offhand, I can think of three others: Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, and AC/DC’s Angus Young. Feel free to leave your own contributions in the comments below.) I myself am the proud owner of a McFarlane Toys sculpt of the man himself, salvaged from a failing Tower Records in the halcyon days of the mid-00s. And yes, it’s still in the packaging.
My fan credentials thus established, I was understandably jazzed to see Slash perform with his new band, The Conspirators, at the Wiltern in Hollywood, a stiff stone’s throw from the erstwhile Saul Hudson’s old Sunset Strip stomping grounds. And indeed, former Alter Bridge frontman and current Conspirators caterwauler Myles Kennedy radiates Riot House swagger as the band launches their set with “Halo” off Slash’s latest album with the Conspirators, 2012’s Apocalyptic Love, in front of a backdrop decked out with the record’s angel/devil motif. Slash being Slash, of course, in this case both angel and devil are sexy chicks.
Sexy chicks also adorn the six Marshall stacks the guitarist is channeling his Les Paul through, producing a brash noise that is perfectly complemented by Kennedy’s unabashedly rock star vocal stylings. Indeed, he sounds more like Axl Rose than Rose himself does these days as the band transitions immediately into “Nightrain” off Guns’ legendary 1987 debut record, Appetite For Destruction. As is to be expected, the crowd goes nuts for this one, as they do for the six — count ‘em, six — other Appetite numbers that the band breaks out tonight. It would be churlish to complain about the absense of “Mr. Brownstone” amongst this number, so I won’t, instead noting that hearing “My Michelle” was an unexpected pleasure.
Bassist Todd Kerns brings an element of goth glam to the proceedings by taking over lead vocal duties on “You’re Crazy,” whilst drummer Brent Fitz and inevitably-overshadowed second guitarist Frank Sidoris hold down the rhythm end of things. Set highlights include “You’re a Lie” and “Anastasia” off Apocalyptic Love, Velvet Revolver’s “Slither,” and Appetite’s “Rocket Queen” and “You’re Crazy,” but the biggest crowd reaction inevitably comes when Slash launches into the unmistakable opening notes of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
The band’s encore brings with it more vintage goodness, as well as some rare words to the audience from Slash himself. “We don’t normally play this song, but since we’re in LA…” he explains by way of introduction to “Welcome to the Jungle,” which sees Kerns once again handling lead vocals. Kennedy retakes the spotlight for the evening’s final number, “Paradise City,” which climaxes with a rain of glittering confetti, a big, brash gesture that perfectly encapsulates the enduring appeal of Slash’s guitar heroics.
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