Fresh from a blistering set at the Download festival in England, Slash and his band of men landed in Ireland on Monday for a pair of sold-out shows at Dublin’s Vicar St. and Belfast’s Mandela Hall. With his previous bands, Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, Slash had headlined Slane and the old Point Theatre respectively, but anybody who’s followed the iconic guitarist’s career knows that nowhere is he more at home than in front of an intimate club audience. In truth, he could easily have sold out a venue five times the size of Vicar St., as the dozen or so touts outside the venue could testify.
Wicklow rockers Glyder, who released their third album Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow back in May, opened proceedings with a compact 30-minute set. Glyder’s classic rock style wouldn’t sound out of place alongside dual-axe wielding -70s legends Thin Lizzy and Wishbone Ash, but their latest effort has seen them shy away from back-to-back Guitar Hero antics for a more balanced mix of melody and heavy rock theatrics. Slash was evidently impressed by Bat Kinane and band, taking time out after the gig to sign a guitar for the guitarist’s cousin, who was sadly unable to attend due to illness.
From that point on, it was nothing but Slash time. The main floor was jammed well in advance of the Californian’s arrival, and the floor only became more jammed as the ‘5 minutes’ call was muttered over the PA. The band were preceded on stage by the now-obligatory foul-mouthed, burly-voiced MC, and the crowd’s response to Slash’s emergence was only slightly dampened by the fact most people had already seen him inadvertently walk on stage two minutes earlier. There was nothing muted, though, about the reception given to opening song -Ghost,’ one of the most popular tracks on Slash’s recently-released solo album, also named Slash.
Slash’s band for the night consisted of a trio of (with all due respect) journeyman LA musicians (guitarist Bobby Schneck, bassist Tommy Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz) and frontman Myles Kennedy, who is best known as the lead singer with Creed side-project Alter Bridge. Kennedy has developed a reputation as one of the most malleable vocalists in the business, and he needed every inch of his experience for a setlist that required him to step into the shows of no less than seven different vocalists (excluding his own material).
Kennedy started strongly, channelling The Cult/Doors singer Ian Astbury on -Ghost,’ following up with a slightly lacklustre take on Slash’s Snakepit’s -Mean Bone’ (call me a completist, but I missed the whole pornstar rap at the start) and a breath-taking rendition of the Guns N’ Roses classic -Nighttrain.’ It would be no exaggeration to say that the group’s performance out-gunned that of Axl’s band – Kennedy does a better impression of Appetite-era Axl than even Axl does, and Slash knows the song so well that he can throw in plenty of variations and flourishes without losing the basic flavour of the song. Too often, when the current Guns N’ Roses play the old shit, it sounds like a cover band, but close your eyes and Slash & Co. could well be the original line-up circa 1987.
Despite Kennedy’s impeccable opening, his voice very suddenly began to deteriorate and he started to offer more verses to the audience, while bassist Kerns filled in the higher parts on the old Guns tracks -Rocket Queen’ and -Civil War’ with an almost comically high Paul Stanley-style wail. Kennedy did a decent impersonation of Eric Dover on the Snakepit track -Beggars & Hangers On,’ before which Slash had given an impressive demonstration of his slide guitar skills, but he made an unconvincing Myles Kennedy on -Back From Cali,’ one of two songs he contributed to Slash’s album.
As it turned out, Kennedy was suffering from flu, though it took until the band introduction towards the end of the set for Slash to finally jump in and deliver the news – Kennedy would have let us all walk away believing he was a bad singer. Slash even managed to get in a shot at you-know-who, remarking that it was the first band he’d been in where the singer had still performed despite being sick. With his sickness in mind, it was no surprise that Kennedy had to duck out of the higher notes on the GN’R songs and Weiland’s raspier Velvet Revolver choruses, and in truth he did quite well on the relatively mellow material.
It all comes back to Slash, though, and the mainman delivered the type of performance you’d expect from that rarest of animals, the celebrity guitarist. Slash has a reputation for being a sloppy live performer, rushing his solos a little bit and jumping ahead of the beat, but in Vicar St. he was spot-on from the beginning and rarely let up throughout the almost-two hour set. Myles’ illness forced him to take more of a leading role than he would perhaps have liked, but he covered his singer well and spent plenty of time at centre-stage rather than his preferred stage-left.
By the climax of the show, Kennedy’s vocals had begun to creak badly, but it gifted the crowd the opportunity to sing -Sweet Child O’ Mine’ in its entirety – a thrilling experience in itself. During a performance in Milan earlier this month, Slash had been attacked mid-solo and recovered without missing more than a couple of beats. There was no such drama in Dublin, but he did deliver a rousing solo guitar performance that lifted the entire arena to its well-worn feet.
Myles’ continued battle with the flu meant a few songs were omitted from the setlist – Alter Bridge’s -Rise Today,’ his second track from the Slash album, -Starlight,’ and lead single -By The Sword’ among them – but they did finish with a thrilling encore. They started with Velvet Revolver’s one big hit, -Slither,’ before launching into a Thin Lizzy cover, the semi-obscure -Are You Ready?,’ in honour of Phil Lynott’s mother Philomena, who is a good friend of Slash’s and was present in the audience. As is customary at all Guns N’ Roses-related gigs, Slash and friends closed with an extended rendition of -Paradise City,’ bringing to a close a set that was shorter than usual but no less memorable as a result.
Throughout the show, Slash and Myles were almost aggressively complimentary of Dublin, a familiar tactic of visiting bands to the city (it’s also possible that Dublin is indeed the best city in the world, but having lived here all my live I have yet to be convinced) and by the end both had promised to return as soon as possible. In Myles’ case, it was to make up for his flu-addled performance, and the fact Alter Bridge had never played here before. In Slash’s case, it was just because he likes the Guinness. Six of one and half a dozen of the other, then…
-Fall To Pieces’ HD video from the show:
Photos: Alessio Michelini.