Made in Stoke 24/7/11
All Access Review: A-
Slash has always had a soft spot in his Jack Daniels-soaked heart for Stoke on Trent, England. Getting back to the place where he grew up has proven more difficult than the rock god imagined, however. A long way away from the boozy, debauched madness and danger of the Sunset Strip club scene that spawned Guns N’ Roses, Stoke, as it is more commonly referred to, has nowhere near the reputation for hedonism and lawlessness that Slash’s other hometown has. At one time it was an industrial city, and it still boasts a booming pottery business. Well, maybe “booming” isn’t the right word, but you get the idea: this is a town that rock ‘n’ roll forgot. If “Mr. Brownstone” ever visited, he’d die of boredom.
Touring the world over, in marauding fashion, with Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver and his own solo projects, Slash, the sleaziest of sleaze-rock merchants – and that’s a compliment, by the way – has never had the chance to perform his special brand of gritty, street-level, electrified blues and bare-knuckled, STD-infected hard rock for the home folks in Stoke. When hitting the road in support of his all-star studded, 2010 solo release Slash, one of the most expressive and technically proficient guitarists of our time made damn sure Stoke was on the schedule. And, as luck would have it, there was a big, ornate venue – historic Victoria Hall – waiting to welcome Slash’s rock ‘n’ roll circus to town.
Recorded and filmed for posterity, the sold-out show, which took place only months ago, has been documented as a double CD and a two CD-DVD package, and it’s a feast for the eyes and ears. The sound is intensely vivid, matching the visceral performance Slash and company pull out of that grimy black top hat of his. The secret weapon here is vocalist Myles Kennedy, the Alter Bridge singer whose alley-cat phrasing and switchblade tonality bear more than a passing resemblance to one Axl Rose. Joined by bassist/backing vocalist Todd Kerns, drummer Brent Fitz and guitarist/support vocalist Bobby Schneck, Kennedy and Slash take the audience down memory lane, evoking memories of Guns N’ Roses’ salad days with a roaring, white-hot version of “Nightrain” that’s as thrilling and scary as a night of horrors in a crack house. Slash’s guitar has never sounded so lean and mean, spitting venom and bile with every note, and his band slithers through every tight, sharp-as-broken-glass hook. Played with wild abandon and dynamic vigor, “Nightrain” leaves the audience breathless, and it almost ruins Made in Stoke 24/7/11 for everything else that comes after it because it is so gripping and deliciously nasty. But, hold on everyone. Slash and his band have miles to go before they call it quits.
One of a handful of Guns N’ Roses favorites on Made in Stoke 24/7/11, “Nightrain” almost makes one forget how rugged and soulful the riff-heavy opener, “Been There Lately,” off Slash’s Snakepit’s second LP, Ain’t Life Grand, is. It pops the cork on Made in Stoke 24/7/11 so dramatically that you can’t help but salivate over what’s to come. And Slash still has plenty of gasoline left in the tank by the time the meaty riffs of “Mean Bone,” also off Ain’t Life Grand, and the solar-powered soul of “Back from Cali,” picked from his latest effort, arrive. Digging back into Guns N’ Roses’ misanthropic catalog, Disc 1 lets it bleed with a rough-and-ready “Rocket Queen” setting up the raging epic “Civil War,” before the bands lays into “Nothing To Say,” “Starlight” and “Promise” – all from Slash – with relish and stabs swords into this mighty sonic bull to finish it off.
Not done by a long shot, Slash and his musical outlaws inject the heart of “Doctor Alibi” with a shot of adrenaline to jumpstart Disc 2, and the track off Slash slams headlong into the growling thrash- metal monster “Speed Parade” that lies in wait. Given the Aerosmith treatment, with its slide guitar and Kennedy’s world-wise singing, “Beggars & Hangers On” plays with the toys in Joe Perry’s attic, while “Patience” breaks tattooed hearts and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” pines for innocence with a revitalized crowd loudly singing along. Still, it’s Velvet Revolver’s “Slither” that steals the show on a Disc 2 that’s slightly more subdued than its predecessor. After the band is introduced, they rip into a powerful display of furious riffage and satisfying, face-down-in-the-gutter hooks that ignites an audience on the verge of storming the stage. And that’s before the blistering “Paradise City” threatens to blow the roof off the place with that song’s riotous conclusion, giving Slash and the boys a chance to finally take their leave.
Though there are brief moments when the driven, manic energy subsides, Made in Stoke 24/7/11 is mostly an all-out assault of fearless, gutsy rock ‘n’ roll. Slash’s solos are piercing, transcendent and wonderfully agile, proving once again that his hands haven’t lost a lick of speed or nimbleness. He remains a sublime talent, and Made in Stock 24/7/11 is a homecoming not only for Slash, but also those fans of his who haven’t given up hope that, one day, he’ll be back to conquer a music world that desperately needs his fire and recklessness, even if he is clean and sober and no longer the wild poster child of sin and degradation we all wanted to party with back in the day.
- Peter Lindblad