February 16, 2011
Every once in a while certain artists serve as a blatant reminder of what most are in search of: good music. Though not typical fare for Honest Tune, there is no doubt that Slash – the enigmatic figure and source of many an up-and-coming guitarist’s idol worship – knows, writes, and participates in good music. A founding member of the saga band that pulled the carpet out from underneath any remaining makeup-clad outfits (even Mötley Crüe removed the mascara) from the excessive 80s, Guns N’ Roses approached music with a level of insolence and intensity that had not been seen nor heard since Sex Pistols. And they did it on the back of their lead guitarist who entwined signature licks with the chops of a soloist into lyrically heavy and vocally dominant numbers.
Subsequent projects such as Velvet Revolver, while good, always lacked the punk-blues-infused fervor of Guns. That is, until this current outfit, cleanly and massively coined Slash. The band rolled into Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, an interesting venue for the occurence considering the walk up to the gigantic structure is accompanied by the Country Music Walk of Fame and is located within spitting distance of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a legendary bar style venue that has hosted everyone from Willie Nelson to Patsy Cline. On this night though, "Music Row" was swamped with people who have an affinity towards music slightly on the heavier side.
From the onset of Slash’s set, so many things were clear, but primarily that sobriety has served the top hat-wearing Guitar Hero (who has flat lined three times) quite well. He and his ensemble’s work detail of the evening was to execute opening duties for another metal marvel, Ozzy Osbourne. Execute they did.
Confidently taking the massive stage at 7:20pm for a 7:30pm scheduled start time, the professionalism that gave way years ago to drugs, tits, and tits with drugs on them was back and in full form. At a Guns N’ Roses gig 18 years ago, all the crew could do to pacify throngs of awaiting fans was repeatedly vacuum the classic logo that lain center stage and ask buxom beauties to show their assets for drooling males staring at the jumbotron. Though this was a 12 year old boy’s dream world, in hormonally subdued retrospect, it lends insight into the band’s priorities, which were definitely not fan oriented. But things could not have been more different in Nashville as Slash interacted with fans, flicked as many picks as he played into the crowd and was very cordial in thanking all at the close of the set.
It was also clear that Slash’s heart lies in Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction era. On this night, everything from an eight minute extended "Nightrain" to a blues imparted "Rocket Queen" was played and amply sung by Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge, who also provided vocals to many tracks on the self-titled record for which this tour was in support. Though occasional thoughts of Chris ‘Izzy’ Cole’s stint in Steel Dragon came to mind in regards to Kennedy, they were short lived as he nailed the material in a manner that one could doubt Axl Rose being able to do at this point. (See Chinese Democracy)
All jabs aside though, this evening was special from start to finish and brought out the headbanger of one’s past and the subsequent morning neck pain of one’s present with natural ease on the heels of Slash’s effortless fret rides on his Les Paul just like the one he took in the classic desert church scene in the music video for "November Rain." Or better yet, the one that he took after psychotically crashing his ’66 Mustang into a canyon in "Don’t Cry." You see, the guy just fucking owns a guitar. Even as diverse an artist as Perpetual Groove’s Brock Butler credits Slash with becoming a guitarist in the first place, stating that "(Slash) opened his eyes to the possibility of a career in guitar soloing."
On its whole, the show at Bridgestone was like witnessing a metal god doing his thing for the first time and doing it with joy as he took songs that are anything but unfamiliar in directions that were new and reeked with thrashing improv. It was watching a talent who has had a relevant career that has spanned nearly 25 years and seen most everything that the rock-and-roll world has to offer, as well as most of what it has to take. It was loud, perfectly delivered, and cleanly invigorating. It was a reminder that good music comes in many shapes, forms, and sizes. It was Slash.
Ghost, Mean Bone (Snakepit), Nightrain (G N’ R), Been There Lately (Snakepit), My Michelle G N’ R), Rocket Queen (G N’ R), Back From Cali, Starlight, Sweet Child O’ Mine (G N’ R), Slither (Velvet Revolver), Paradise City (G N’R)