Velvet Revolver, Hammersmith Apollo, London

Shooting from the hip again
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The Independent Culture

Comprising three battle-scarred members of Guns N' Roses and a former Stone Temple Pilot, Velvet Revolver are living relics of the late Eighties - a time when eyeliner, leather trousers and porn-star girlfriends were a prerequisite for any self-respecting rocker. As famous for their offstage depravity as for their music - during his Guns tenure, the guitarist, Slash, officially died twice and the bassist Duff McKagan's pancreas exploded after a night on the vodka - they are, of course, already legends in their own right.

Comprising three battle-scarred members of Guns N' Roses and a former Stone Temple Pilot, Velvet Revolver are living relics of the late Eighties - a time when eyeliner, leather trousers and porn-star girlfriends were a prerequisite for any self-respecting rocker. As famous for their offstage depravity as for their music - during his Guns tenure, the guitarist, Slash, officially died twice and the bassist Duff McKagan's pancreas exploded after a night on the vodka - they are, of course, already legends in their own right.

Velvet Revolver may have stared death in the face, but, as tonight's show demonstrates, not much else has changed. The sound is still dirty, squally and relentlessly heavy rock, while drugs, booze and "red-hot ladies" still feature prominently in their lyrics. Their look hasn't altered much either - while Slash still favours the casual baggy-shirt-and-sneakers look (the top hat comes out only for the encore), the rest of the band are still showing an unhealthy attachment to their leathers.

Androgynous, cadaverous and skinny as a blade of grass, the singer, Scott Weiland, is a compelling spectacle in a deranged sort of way. His faux-military outfit brings to mind Mel Brooks singing "Springtime for Hitler", though his body language is more Sid Vicious-meets-Frank N Furter. If Weiland - who works up his body weight in sweat several times over - has to graft for our attention, for the Guns veterans Slash and Duff, it's effortless. They've earned their stripes already - now all they need to do is stand there, casually inviting cheers with every twitch of their cigarettes.

Tonight, Velvet Revolver pull out all the rock'n'roll stops - gongs are banged, guitars played on knees and lyrics delivered through a megaphone - but their refusal to move forward musically is a shame, particularly for a band that claims to have left the past behind. Guns N' Roses may have had their day but find me a music fan under the age of 40 who can't hum the opening bars of "Paradise City" and "Sweet Child o' Mine" and I'll burn my record collection.

By comparison, Velvet Revolver's melodies are unlikely to see out the year. "Set Me Free" and "Falling to Pieces" are just about sustained by Slash's signature guitar sound, but classics they are not.

It goes without saying that the biggest cheers of the night are reserved for the old Guns N' Roses numbers "Used to Love Her" and "It's So Easy". The band also summon up the old magic for a cover of Aerosmith's "No More, No More" and a version of Nirvana's "Negative Creep"; the latter of which seems a magnanimous choice, given that it was the success of Nirvana that finally did in Guns N' Roses in the early Nineties. It's a proud ending to an otherwise ordinary show.

For Velvet Revolver, success has yet to turn into all-out victory. They've proved they've grown up and cleaned up; now they just need to move on.

Point, Dublin, tonight; SECC, Glasgow, Friday; Newcastle Arena, Saturday; NIA, Birmingham, Tuesday; Cardiff Arena, 19 January; Brixton Academy, London SW9, 21 Jan; Hammersmith Apollo, London W6, 22 & 23 January

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