It was the birthday boy’s show, but it was the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium crowd that got their wish.
Slash, the epitome of ‘80s hair metal guitarists – and one of the few to survive into relevancy nearly three decades on – put on an epic show Monday night, offering up a seamless mixture of solo material, sprinkled with heavy doses from his early Guns ‘N’ Roses days and a drop or two from his foray with Velvet Revolver.
The sold-out crowd ate up everything the now 47-year-old guitar hero delivered, singing when they knew the words, playing air guitar with rock and roll frenzy for the rest.
Early on it was clear this was no ordinary Auditorium show – starting with the pat-down ticket holders were subjected to entering the building.
Two songs in and the English-born Slash, tagged with the name Saul Hudson at birth, showed he was not afraid to dip back into his G ‘N’ R days, despite a well-documented feud with front-man Axel Rose.
The heavily tattooed crowd, most of who suckled at the Appetite for Destruction teat, was whipped into their first – but certainly not last – frenzy of the evening when he and his backing band, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, ripped into a hot and heavy version of Night Train.
It just got better and louder from there.
Dressed in his traditional black leather top hat, his familiar curly black locks wrapped around his shade-covered eyes, a black tank top adorned with a slightly altered, spread-eagled McDonald’s logo and the slogan, “I’m loving it,” and a pair of trademark black leather pants, Slash left most of the talking to Kennedy, the 42-year-old ex-Alter Bridge vocalist who’s found new life alongside one of rock’s greatest riff-masters of all time.
“It’s good to be here tonight. Thanks a lot for coming out tonight. We’re going to play some rock and roll for you,” shouted Kennedy, who once rehearsed with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin for an unreleased 2008 project.
It started with Back from Cali, from Slash’s eponymous 2010 debut solo album, released while he was still toying around with Velvet Revolver.
Sticking to the lesser-played songs from Guns ‘N’ Roses best-selling album, My Michelle, a brutally honest song about a friend of the band, was next, Kennedy playing Rose’s role almost to a tee, minus the theatrics and the customary four-hour delay.
Eight songs in and Slash finally greeted the crowd, an expletive-laced, simple shout-out to Thunder Bay.
“I love the name of this town,” he said, stepping back and introducing the ballad Not For Me, the ninth track on his latest band’s 2012 album Apocalyptic Love.
Rocket Queen kept the fans on their feet, the floor of the pit shaking with every note Slash, Kennedy and band-maters, bassist Todd Kerns, drummer Brent Fitz – a pair of Canadians nonetheless – and guitarist Frank Sidoris let fly.
Kerns took over the vocals for Doctor Alibi, then, after a lengthy intro, the familiar sounds of You’re Crazy echoed loud and clear, easily one of the highlights of the night.
No Slash show would be complete without a solo, and it was delivered on cue, about 90 minutes into the two-hour epic, a 10-minute guitar clinic that left sweat dripping from his hands, caught in the back-lighting silhouetting him on stage.
With nary a word in between, the lick that made Guns ‘N’ Roses famous was next, Slash heading to stage right while Kennedy belted out Sweet Child O’ Mine, lost in his own world as if he was trying to distance himself from the words so famously written by Rose, focusing instead on the riffs that were his and his alone.
Acknowledging his birthday, Slash blew out the candles on a cake delivered from backstage, after anointing the crowd with Your Lies, his most recent hit.
“Look at all you (people). You guys are beautiful,” he said in response, using a word not quite fit for print to describe the crowd. “I love having my birthday on the road, I have to say.”
Slither, Velvet Revolver’s debut single, was aptly performed in Scott Weiland’s place by Kennedy before the band left the stage, the crowd cheering for more.
Slash and friends did not disappoint, ending with Revolver’s Fall to Pieces and Paradise City, the G ‘N’ R hit from so long ago that had everyone singing along.
It was about all the crowd could ask for – and then a little bit more.
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