Slash, Celebrity Theatre, 9/5/12

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See also: Slash Still Has an Appetite for Destruction See also: Buckethead on His Time in Guns 'N' Roses: "No Answer." See also: Guns N' Roses at Comerica Theatre, 12/27/11 See also: Tommy Stinson of Guns N' Roses and The Replacements: "A [Replacements] Reunion Is About As Likely as an Original Guns Reunion." See also: The full Slash @ Celebrity Theatre Slideshow

Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators @ Celebrity Theatre|9/5/12

Rock 'n' roll lifer Slash started his show at the Celebrity Theatre last night right on time; a couple of minutes early in fact. It's not surprising really, given that one of the purported reasons Slash left Guns N' Roses was Axl Rose's insistence that the band go on late. Slash didn't like to keep the fans waiting then, and doesn't now, launching his timely start with the grinding "Halo" from Apocalyptic Love, his latest album featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, his current backing band.

Before arriving at the venue, I wondered how Slash would handle his back catalogue. He has a pair of solo albums, and also was a driving force in both Velvet Revolver and GN'R days. With Rose taking over the GN'R name, and more or less keeping the band alive, could Slash still perform songs from those days? Would he want to? By some measure he has to break out these signature songs. Any questions were erased with the second song, a riveting version of Guns N' Roses' "Nightrain."

This also answered the unasked, but certainly out there question, of whether Kennedy, the Alter Bridge frontman, could handle Rose's vocal part. He excelled, and to his credit he didn't try to emulate Rose or match Rose's in-song nuances. Instead, Kennedy simply gave every song his all, which proved to be more than enough no matter what material was being played. (He easily covered Scott Weiland's vocals as well on the VR tracks.)

Slash, in signature top hat, aviator shades, patched leather pants that appeared to be the same ones he wore in the 1980s, and sleeveless flannel shirt, moved about the stage like a stalking panther, jumping about as the music moved him, once climbing on the drum riser, but mostly hovering near his band in the thick of the action. When it came to soloing, he was typically moved to center stage (the band faded backward), shredding with one of his many Gibson Les Pauls perched solidly on his knee. Considered one of the top 10 guitarists of all time by numerous publications, the intimacy of the Celebrity Theatre gave everyone a close up of what makes him so good.

With a deep catalogue to sift through, the extremely tight band--drummer Brent Fitz, bassist and vocalist (more than admirably handling singing duties on a pair of songs) Todd Kerns, and guitarist Frank Sidoris--also worked through Slash's solo material as well as a few choice Velvet Revolver cuts. In many ways it was like three shows in one, as each piece of musical history carried its own distinctive style.

Slash's solo work was varied, moving from heavy rock, to glam metal, to bluesy numbers--including "Anastasia," an extended heavy blues psych jam that was reminiscent of very early Deep Purple, and even Cream. Up popped a question: Had Eric Clapton ever given the blues such a heavy treatment as this? Much of the material, such as "Standing in the Sun", "Back From Cali," the heavy ballad "Not For Me," "Shots Fired" and "No More Heroes," came from Apocalyptic Love, and shifted from power ballads to driving hard rock and blistering metal. Meanwhile, "Starlight" (the first track Kennedy and Slash composed together, Kennedy told the crowd), "Dr. Alibi" and "Ghost" came off Slash.

Slashed touched on a pair of Velvet Revolver songs near the show's conclusion, and these two were decidedly different and completely changed the pace, as if amphetamines were suddenly administered to all. "Slither" was wicked, pounding and intense, coming just before the encore, while "Fall To Pieces," felt like an end was truly near (maybe this is why the song opened the encore?).

The Guns N' Roses material, not surprisingly, received the biggest crowd response and recognition, including the crowd taking control of the chorus in "Sweet Child Of Mine." But these songs: "Night Train," "Sweet Child Of Mine," "Rocket Queen," "My Michelle," and show closer "Paradise City" all had a different more immediate feel. The pace was more frenetic, the songs more forceful and determined, much as they were when Slash and crew were trying to establish themselves as a musical force to be reckoned with. That urgency isn't as apparent in the more recent material, but hardly diminished its value either.

"Muchas gracias fucking Phoenix," Slash extolled near the shows conclusion. But with an almost two-hour show that was nothing short of a solid, seriously good rock outing driven by an enthusiastic crowd and a band aiming to please, everyone had reason to say thanks.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Slash with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators Personal bias: Always enjoyed Slash's work with Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver. The crowd: Plenty of black clad folks, young rockers, and a surprisingly older contingent, many that may have seen GN'R back when. Random notebook dump: Kennedy noted that "Not For Me" was about an epiphany. How many in the crowd know what that work means? Overheard: "Thirty-five dollars for a fucking T-shirt? I don't care if it is Slash, that's robbery."

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