Thursday, March 31st, 2005
Vancouver, BC Canada
***Review and All Live Photography by Lord of The Wasteland
Supergroups suck, right? Everybody knows that. Musicians from various big-name bands come together and form a new unit hoping to take over the world and show their former outfits how sorry they should be that they left. This is certainly nothing novel, as Supergroup X?s record label will plaster the new album with their former band?s names to get buyer?s attention and 99% of the time, the record tanks and Supergroup X disappears.
When Velvet Revolver was first announced in 2003, I was stoked to hear that the vocalist from one of the favorite bands of the 90s?Stone Temple Pilots?would be joining forces with three-fifths of Guns ?n Roses. The former band imploded under a messy stretch of incarcerations, drug abuse and personality clashes, while the latter has been promising a new album, CHINESE DEMOCRACY, for nearly ten years (Axl Rose is the only member left). Scott Weiland?s demons seem to be behind him and I, for one, could not be happier. Weiland is a captivating frontman and seeing him get swallowed up by drugs was sad and frustrating to watch. On Velvet Revolver?s 2004 debut album, CONTRABAND, he sounds better than ever and his ambiguous lyrics paired up with Slash?s sizzling guitar work and Duff McKagan?s thunderous bass and Matt Sorum?s tight drumming, made it one of the year?s highlights.
The news that Velvet Revolver was taking the show on the road left me a bit apprehensive at what the setlist would entail. With only one album under their belts, would they fill the set with Guns ?n Roses and Stone Temple Pilots tracks or simply play an abbreviated show featuring tracks drawn from CONTRABAND? Fortunately, the band was firing on all cylinders and played for a stunning hour and forty minutes. Eleven of the thirteen tracks on CONTRABAND were played, as well as three Guns ?n Roses classics, two Stone Temple Pilots gems and even a Rolling Stones cover (?Star Star? from 1973?s GOATS HEAD SOUP)! The band was unbelievably tight and exuded chemistry like I have not seen on stage in years. Weiland truly is a rock god. His charisma is untouched and he embodies the emaciated physical presence of a young Iggy Pop, the fluid strut of Mick Jagger, the swagger of Jim Morrison and the showmanship of David Bowie. The man was born to perform and witnessing him take the crowd into the palm of his hand was something to see. A long-winded rant about consumerism and the state of rock and roll during ?Sex Type Thing? took the wind out of a few sails but the band managed to get the crowd whipped up again as if it was old hat. Weiland juggles a microphone stand like a pro and his use of a megaphone on several of the songs got old really fast but overall, he was on the mark.
Of course, Slash was the reason that many fans were in attendance and the legendary axeman did not disappoint his flock. Whether he was executing a flawless solo behind his head on ?Set Me Free,? strapping on a double-necked guitar and his trademark top hat for ?You Got No Right? or laying down a bluesy solo (to which Weiland remarked, ?There ain?t no gunslinger like a young gunslinger?), Slash still commands an audience whenever he plays. As a result, second guitarist Dave Kushner tends to be swallowed up by Slash?s spotlight despite being a hell of a riff man. Granted, being the unknown on a stage of big names can?t be easy to swallow on a daily basis but the two guitarists have been friends since junior high school and Kushner has known most of the band for years, so I suppose he is accepting of that. McKagan looked as grizzled as ever and his pre-?It?s So Easy? speech about growing up on Vancouver?s notorious Downtown Eastside with bands like D.O.A. tells the tale of every crag on his face. Settled under a giant neon ?Velvet Revolver? sign and two huge projection screens sat Sorum, whose time keeping has taken him from Guns ?n Roses to The Cult, and having played with half the band previously, he knows the songs and paves the way with a solid backbeat.
Velvet Revolver has proven the naysayers wrong and defied the odds, rising from the ashes to become a successful and, more importantly, viable band in 2005. CONTRABAND is a powerful release that never rests on the laurels of the band members? former glories and the guys clearly have a hunger and passion for rock-and-rapin? roll that is sorely missing from most of today?s artists. Great songs, top-notch musicans, and all that dreamy arena rock spectacle add up to a show that fans young and old will be talking about for a while.
Sucker Train Blues
Do It For The Kids
Illegal I Song
Fall To Pieces
Dirty Little Thing
It?s So Easy
Sex Type Thing
Set Me Free
You Got No Right
Used To Love Her
Star Star (Rolling Stones cover)
***Read my review of Velvet Revolver's CONTRABAND CD here
**Read Marko's review of Velvet Revolver's August 2004 show in Helsinki, Finland here
***Visit Velvet Revolver?s official site
***Thanks to Jamie at House of Blues for the ticket & photo pass