Slash at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin 4th March, 2013
With his distinctive long hair, top hat, sunglasses, and trademark Gibson Les Paul guitar, Guns ‘N’ Roses legend Slash is instantly recognisable the moment he emerges on stage.
Since departing the band that made him famous in the mid-90s, Slash has carved out a niche for himself as a master of the axe, with a gift for a riff. His latest album, ‘Apocalyptic Love’, his second solo release, features Alter Bridge vocalist Myles Kennedy and backing band The Conspirators. The band’s two sold out dates in the Olympia on Sunday and Monday night marked the end of the European tour to promote the album. If there was any touring fatigue though, Slash and Co show absolutely no sign of it.
The hugely energetic show covered material from the entire breath of Slash’s career, with a heavy dose of Guns N’ Roses classics, but also songs from Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, and Slash’s two solo albums.
After opening with some newer material, Slash took things back to 1987, with a rousing rendition of Nightrain, from ‘Appetite for Destruction’. Far from sounding like a tribute act, the band instilled the Guns N’ Roses number with a heady dose of their own personality. The key to this was Kennedy’s vocals, which managed to emulate the giddy, hyperactive energy of Axl Rose in his prime, without ever sounding like a derivative cheap imitation.
But he wasn’t just relying on a legacy of a previous band, as Slash and Co put just as much passion into the newer material. The audience sang along with Kennedy to Back from Cali (from the 2010 album ‘Slash’) just as loudly as anything else. And when bassist Todd Kearns stepped up to the mic to sing the Doctor Alibi (sung by Lemmy of Motorhead on the ‘Slash’ album) the crowd could hardly have been any more excited.
Nevertheless, the real tentpole of the show was still the Guns N’ Roses tracks – the audience may not have cared about the distinction, but this material was just better than everything else surrounding it. The most memorable moments of the show were the momentous rendition of Civil War, with Slash fronting the way through three successive solos, each more impressive than the last, on a twin neck guitar – ending on a final sweeping high, before breaking playfully into the opening bars of Jimi Hendrix’s Voodoo Child – and an staggering twenty minute version of Rocket Queen, with a fifteen minute breakdown of guitar whizzery in the middle.
And why shouldn’t the songs with which Slash began his career with should receive such pride of place in the show? After all this particular band is a lot better at performing them than the current iteration of Guns N’ Roses, and Kennedy is certainly a much better front man – with a much more solid singing voice – than Axl Rose has become.
If anybody deserves to have the final say on the Guns N’ Roses legacy before the band finally departs entirely, it is Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. They perform with a great chemistry, visibly interacting and feeding off each other’s energy onstage, while Slash and Kennedy make a great frontal duo. They dispel the doubts about their right to play the songs of Guns N’ Roses with sheer technique and confidence.
After some more newer material – including Starlight and Anastasia – Slash shredded his way into the show’s finale with a string of the classics Sweet Child o’ Mine, Welcome to the Jungle and Paradise City. The show finally came to an end in an explosion of confetti, drowning out the stage and transforming the pit into a snow globe. With the last of the confetti finally drifting to the ground and the final notes of Paradise City fading out, the band took their bows and tossed plecs out into the audience before Slash slyly added that “We’ll be seeing ya’all again next year.” Let’s hope that’s not an empty promise.
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Photos: Kieran Frost