Velvet Revolver, Hammersmith Apollo, London
Monday 06 September 2004
A handful of music's most notorious degenerates stripped to their waists play another slab of dirty, squalling heavy metal. You could forget guitarist Slash, once a self-proclaimed sex addict, was married with a kid; or that bass player bassist Duff McKagan was a semester away from completing a business degree. For Velvet Revolver, the slogan should have read "rehabilitation and redemption".
This was a band of survivors. From Guns N' Roses came Slash and drummer Matt Sorum, both sacked by increasingly paranoid frontman Axl Rose, before McKagan left in disgust. They left behind some hair-raising times, with Slash having "died" from an overdose. By 2002, the threesome were clean and hungry to start afresh.
For vocal duties, they recruited Scott Weiland, the drug-addled former singer for grunge band Stone Temple Pilots. Not long after his successful audition last year he was arrested for possession. Somehow, their album, Contraband, came out in July, ironically earning them Kerrang's best newcomer prize.
While Rose has been teasing fans for 10 years with promises of a new Guns N' Roses album, Velvet Revolver had beaten him to it. Out had gone the piano-led ballads and art-rock excursions of the Use Your Illusion records in favour of heads-down power. On stage, the same conviction was displayed in a breathless 90-minute show. Sorum gurned as he flayed his skins while McKagan laid down some floor-shaking basslines.
The biggest cheers were reserved for Slash, the Stoke-born axeman who proved with his screaming solos that Brits can still cause as much mayhem as any American star. Weiland was accepted almost as warmly. He sashayed across the stage as if it was a catwalk, mounted the speaker stacks and vogued on a central podium. Dressed in aviator shades and peaked military cap, his act owed a great deal to Rose. In his former band, Weiland had aped Rose's vocal techniques, especially the low range of "It's So Easy". That was still evident, though now he could take in the toe-curling screams as well. All that was missing was the tunes.
"Sucker Train Blues" and "Doing It For The Kids" were passable imitations of early Roses, though without the impact of "Welcome To the Jungle" or "Paradise City". To make matters worse, Weiland's self-obsessed lyrics failed to connect, usually because he vacillated between glamorising his habit and pure self-loathing.
For an encore, the band rewarded their fans with the old hits. Slash introduced the metal heads to country rock on a semi-acoustic version of the Roses' "I Used To Love Her", before they roared through the same band's "It's So Easy", Nirvana's "Negative Creep" and Stone Temple Pilots' one claim to fame, "Sex Type Thing".
As well as the tunes, it was the devil-may-care attitude of these songs that overshadowed the band's own material, where Velvet Revolver's protean riffs and Weiland's self-absorption were an ungainly combination. The bad boys are growing up, but old habits die hard.
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