Photos by author
If you grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s like I did, you might have been a fan of Guns N’ Roses. While they’re still around today, they hardly resemble the lineup that featured Slash, Duff McKagan and Izzy Stradlin. The name might be the same but the band now seems to consist of Axl Rose and a group of randoms.
I’ve got a lot of good memories growing up and watching their videos on MTV…you know when MTV was more about showing great bands instead of pregnant teenagers. Guns N’ Roses produced some of the biggest and best videos of the time and while they might not stand up over the test of time, they were a part of my childhood memories. And the best part of those videos for me wasn’t Axl Rose or the the high production value; no, the best part of the videos was the lead guitarist. Slash was the guy who stepped up on top of the grand piano in the “November Rain” video and unleashed an amazing solo. He was the one driving the late 60’s Mustang in the “Don’t Cry” video, the one who was playing with his pet snake in the “Patience” video, the one who was always wearing a top hat and sunglasses, smoking a cigarette and just looking more badass than anyone else.
Appearance and mystique aside, it’s no secret that he’s one hell of a guitar player. The opening riff to “Sweet Child of Mine,” is one of the most recognizable guitar parts in rock and roll history and his solos in “November Rain” and “Paradise City” are just as recognizable as well.
Since his Guns ‘N Roses days Slash has stayed busy releasing an album with Slash’s Snakepit, two with Velvet Revolver, his own solo album and two live albums. And last Thursday in Baltimore kicked off the “Apocalyptic Love” tour which will support his new album of the same name due to be released on May 22nd. Apocalyptic Love is an album of completely new material with Slash’s new band, “The Conspirators” featuring singer Myles Kennedy, bassist Todd Kerns, rhythm guitarist Bobby Schneck and Brent Fitz on drums.
So when I had the opportunity to cover this show for WLDC, I jumped at the chance, happily making the drive up to Baltimore to Ram’s Head Live to catch the show and to see what Slash had to offer.
Two bands opened up for Slash, the first being Hillbilly Herald, from Los Angeles California. Upon hearing the name, I had an idea of what Hillbilly Herald might look like and I was right; long hair, shaggy beard and all around grungy. With a mic stand made of stacked PBR cans, Hillbilly Herald came out and blasted the audience with hard rock for a half hour incorporating the wailing banshee vocals of lead singer Jimmy Herald and screaming guitars. They paid homage to a band that they obviously draw inspiration from as they threw down a great version of AC/DC’s “T.N.T.” with Herald doing a great Bon Scott impression. The other highlight of their set was their original song “Yellow Belly” which reminded me of Motorhead. Jimmy Herald is a great showman and he was constantly moving around the stage and working the crowd. They were one of the best opening bands I’ve seen in a long time and played for an enthusiastic, welcoming crowd and there was no shortage of people around their merch table after their set. You can check them out at www.hillbillyherald.com.
Brand New Sin was the next band to take the stage and while they hit hard and played well, they didn’t seem to reach the crowd like Hillbilly Herald did. Lead singer Kris Wiechmann is definitely a capable vocalist and lead guitarist Tommy Matkowski ripped some excellent solos but maybe I was still reeling from Hillbilly Herald’s set or maybe I was just more focused on Slash taking the stage next. Brand New Sin didn’t do anything necessarily bad, they just didn’t do anything extremely memorable. However, the audience seemed to appreciate them more than I did as they got a great reception. Brand New Sin’s website is www.brandnewsin.com.
Finally, Slash lead The Conspirators out onto the stage and they launched into their set with “Mean Bone,” one of my favorites and one of three songs they would play off the Slash’s Snakepit album. Overall the setlist was a great mix of songs from all parts of Slash’s career and I felt that they were most of the songs you’d want to hear at his show. Guns ‘N Roses highlights consisted of “Night Train,” “Rocket Queen,” “Sweet Child of Mine,” and “My Michelle.” Two of the best parts of the night were the extended solo Slash took on Rocket Queen and the two solos during Sweet Child of Mine. At this point in his career he could probably fall out of bed and nail the solos in Sweet Child of Mine but they were still amazing as he nailed every single note, exactly the same way you hear it on the record. Unbelievable.
Slash debuted only two new songs from his upcoming album which I found to be a bit odd. Maybe he’ll incorporate more of them into their sets later in the tour after the album is released and fans are more familiar with them. However, “You’re a Lie” and “Standing In The Sun” mixed right into the set with Slash’s signature guitar sound and excellent solos. I was hoping to hear some more new material as well as the Godfather solo which has become a staple of Slash’s shows. Those were my only two minor complaints of the night.
Singer Myles Kennedy did an excellent job throughout the night and should be considered one of the best working vocalists today. If you closed your eyes during the show, it’d probably be hard to tell the difference between him and Axl Rose at this point in their respective areers. He also covered Scott Weiland’s Velvet Revolver vocals really well on “Slither,” “Sucker Train Blues,” “Dirty Lil Thing,” and “Fall to Pieces.” Bassist Todd Kerns stepped in and provided vocals for “Doctor Alibi,” a song originally sang on Slash’s solo album by Lemmy from Motorhead. Kerns did an admirable job of matching Lemmy’s growling scratchy voice and was probably the most noticeable member of the band outside of Slash and Kennedy as he was all over the stage for the entire night.
However, there was no doubt that the night was a tribute of sorts to the recently inducted Hall of Fame axeman and his career. Fans sang along to practically all of the Guns ‘N Roses and Velvet Revolver songs, most notably on “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Fall to Pieces.” The encore consisted of the intense “By The Sword” and then “Paradise City.” And when Slash started the final and perhaps the most blistering solo of the night on “Paradise City,” confetti cannons burst on either side of the stage with a loud explosion. Slash was undeniably the man of the of the night as he not only left the crowd in awe but left the members of the other bands looking on in amazement as they watched from the merch tables. He’s cemented himself as one of the best guitar players of all time and if you are a fan of hard rock, there’s no excuse to miss him when he comes back through town. Check out upcoming tourdates at www.slashonline.com.
Dirty Lil Thing
Back From Cali
Sucker Train Blues
Standing in the Sun
Fall to Pieces
You’re a Lie
Just Like Anything
Sweet Child of Mine
By the Sword