Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators / Monster Truck. Dublin 3 Arena, 10 November 2014.
As far as music icons go, there are few more instantly recognisable than Slash. With trademark top hat, and face-obscuring thick curly hair and sunglass, even in silhouette, the guitar hero is unmistakable.
Photo: Eamon O'Neill
With a career that began some thirty years ago in the darkest recesses of L.A’s seedy Sunset Strip, the onetime Saul Hudson has come a long way.From Guns ‘N’ Roses to Velvet Revolver and now as a successful solo artist, one thing however has remained constant, and that’s his characteristic love of rock ‘n’ f’n roll. Now three albums into a career backed by latest band The Conspirators, with vocalist Myles Kennedy as his right-hand man, it’s fair to say that this latest venture has been fruitful. Tonight in Dublin, on the opening night of a world tour, Slash and band treated the crowd to a mix of classic tracks from every period of his career, as well as premiering songs from the new album ‘World On Fire’ live for the first time.
Before Slash took to the stage, Canadian four-piece Monster Truck opened proceedings. With a brand of southern blues rock, sludge and grunge, the band are aptly named, as their sound is simply huge. Vocalist Jon Harvey is a rare commodity, with the sheer power in his voice reminiscent of Chris Cornell. While the band’s d-tuned guitars too recall Soundgarden, their subtle Hammond organ nuances add a touch of Lynyrd Skynyard to their sound. They have the tunes too, and the likes of the frantic four Status Quo stomp of ‘Old Train’ and the slow blues of ‘For The Sun’ were big hits with the Dublin audience. On tonight’s evidence, Monster Truck are real contenders, and addressing the crowd towards the end of their set, when Harvey asked; ‘If we came back here would you guys come to see us?’, the enthusiastic cheers suggested that the crowd agree. Call it logistics, or even scheduling, but it can be no great coincidence that Slash chose to begin his lengthy world tour in Dublin. The Stoke-On-Trent born guitarist has always had a great affinity with Ireland, and has never been shy of sharing his love of two of the country’s greatest musical exports. As an advocate of Thin Lizzy, and a huge fan of Rory Gallagher, it was fitting then that both families were represented in tonight’s crowd with both Donal Gallagher, brother of the late Ballyshannon-born bluesman, and Philomena Lynott, mother of Lizzy bandleader Phil Lynott in attendance. It wasn’t all Irish rock royalty in the audience though, and as the house lights went down and the intro tape rolled, fathers and sons rubbed shoulders with old school rockers and new school teens, in testament to Slash’s multi-generational appeal.
Opening with ‘You’re a Lie’, the explosive lead single from the Conspirator’s ‘Apocalyptic Love’ album, Slash and co wasted no time in igniting the audience, before going straight into Guns ‘N’ Roses ‘Night Train’ to predictably ecstatic response. Mixing the old with the new, it wasn’t long before the first of many brand new songs was debuted, with the celtic-tinged licks of ‘Avalon’ followed by dark rocker ‘Stone Blind’ slotting effortlessly into the set. Although the new material was well received, it was the second Guns ‘N’ Roses song of the night that really quickened the pulses, with a bombastic rendition of ‘You Could Be Mine’ raising the roof.
Although a vehicle for the six-string hero, with countless shows under their belt during the past four years, The Conspirators are a proper band, and a well-oiled machine. Myles Kennedy is a formidable frontman with an incredible vocal range, likable personality and an identifiable stage presence. He also refreshingly down to earth, and doesn’t suffer from the dreaded ‘lead singer’s disease’, the self-ego stroking condition that has in the past, made working relationships untenable in some of Slash’s other bands. Bassist Todd Kerns meanwhile, is no slouch behind the mike either, and giving Kennedy a chance for a breather, he took over on lead vocals for a pair of tracks, proving to be less gruff than Lemmy on ‘Doctor Alibi’ and just as high-pitched as Axl on ‘You’re Crazy’.
With Kennedy reinstated behind the mic, the pulsing groove of ‘Wicked Stone’ was one of the highlights of this first half of the set, as was the sleazy extended guitar work-out of the band’s take on Guns ‘N’ Roses ‘Rocket Queen’. Although the centre-piece guitar solo was overly lengthy for some, the drama–building workout allowed Slash to show off why he is regarded as fabled guitar hero to many, with a series of licks, scales, and runs that were in places darn well sexy. It may just have been the set highlight, were it not for a pair of other G ‘N’ R classics that followed at the end of the night.
Following latest album highlight ‘Bent To Fly’, and a rousingly incendiary ‘World On Fire’, the staccato riff intro to ‘Sweet Child O’ ‘Mine’ took the atmosphere in the venue to a whole new level. With every voice singing along to every word, the 3Arena was transformed into a choir, as the band showed just why the song is so loved by so many. With the main set over, taking his final bows a visibly appreciative Slash told the crowd ‘You’ve been absolutely amazing’ to whoops of delight.
There was only one track that could possibly follow the ‘Appetite For Destruction’ classic, and as the opening chords to ‘Paradise City’ rang out, every pair of hands in the arena clapped along in time to drummer Brent Fitz’s beat. As the tempo grew more urgent, and the song built towards its frantic finale, with flashing lights and an explosion of ticker tape, the song, and the show reached its euphoric climax. Throwing out plectrums to a lucky few, ‘we’ll see you next year’, promised the axe-man leaving the stage. With that parting tease, and with Donal in attendance and the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival’s official Facebook page posting that ‘someday soon Slash will play Rory's Strat’, suspicions are suitably raised about something pretty special taking place in Co. Donegal in the not too distant future. Tonight however, it was Dublin’s turn, and Dublin was on fire. Whatever the venue, those here tonight are sure to return whenever this gunner next comes to town.
First published on gigsandfestivals.co.uk, 12 November 2014.