With every album Slash has released under his own name, a live album and DVD has followed. And in keeping with tradition, Living the Dream has proven no exception. Always in a different place (Stoke, New York and LA), round four also keeps to that tradition by capturing the final night of the UK leg at London’s Hammersmith Apollo. Just glancing at the tracklist of what Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators were performing on that night (and the other UK dates) is a stark reminder of how special that tour was.
Steadily building their own material through albums this was, effectively, the culmination of the past decade. Gone was every last Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver and Guns N’ Roses song (other than “Nightrain” which is my personal favourite GN’R song). Now, it was simply an evening of Conspirators material with some staples from Slash’s self-titled debut. Whilst they’ve always been a “legitimate” band and not a side-project for any of the five involved, this was them arriving. The staples from Apocalyptic Love and World on Fire remained as well as a healthy bunch from last year’s album.
So now, you can see them, in all their glory, taking over two hours to ply their wares to a sold-out crowd. Or if you’d rather simply listen, that option is there too. Frankly, the listening option will likely be the preferable option. The DVD’s audio mixing has both Myles Kennedy’s and Todd Kerns’ lead (and for the latter, backing, too) vocals too low in the mix. Visually, everything’s cut together brilliant, shots flash to show Slash when he pulls off those solos and over to Kerns’ menacing bass lines at the appropriate moments. It shows Frank Sidoris holding his own on the six strings and belting out those perfect rhythms. You can see Brent Fitz smashing out his drum work with ease, a grin never far away and Kennedy commanding the crowd as well as his usual back seat to let the man in the top hat take centre stage at several points.
However, in a world of Blu-Rays, the DVD video quality isn’t wonderful and in today’s modern age, there are far cleaner live shows out there from a footage perspective. So if you have to watch it, spend the extra money for the pretty Blu-Ray footage. It also shows the other big problem with the show: the crowd. It’s very much your typical reserved London crowd, only cheering and clapping during participation moments when prompted. There just seems no life to them during songs, especially when compared to the audiences in both Manchester and Glasgow (both of which I was at). Sure, they may be at an historic venue but you want to see the crowd up for it and London’s just wasn’t – and when you’re watching a live DVD, you want to see the crowd enjoy the evening as much as the band.
However, what the DVD does capture is the band, as a unit, at their utmost best, well into a busy touring schedule. This is them firing on all cylinders. The tightest they’ve ever been in their nine years, the chemistry isn’t faked and there are various shots to show the magnificence of the room and the band unfazed by both this and the lifeless crowd, more than making up for it. You can tell the band are loving every minute of performing and there’s an energy to Slash that you can only find when he’s performing with this unit.
This is something which translates into the album. And it’s also where it outshines the DVD. The audio here is far more crisp and better mixed. But not only that, they’ve managed to capture their chemistry on record. You don’t need to watch them enjoy themselves because it comes through in their performance itself. Various songs are built out and far longer than they appear on their albums due to adding in intros and guitar solos for Slash with “Wicked Stone” clocking in at over 11 minutes and “World on Fire” nearing the 18 minute mark. And neither ever feel that long. Each of them completely captivate, losing you in their respective moments.
Dues are given, such as “Dr Alibi” introduced by Todd Kerns, acknowledging Lemmy’s involvement and Motörhead’s legacy whilst “Starlight” is referenced by Kennedy as the song which started it all for this band. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators setlist without such classics as “Ghost”, “Halo”, “Back From Cali”, “Avalon”, “You’re a Lie” and of course, “Anastasia”. And as has always been the way with Conspirators material, the new songs fit in seamlessly and show how all of them were designed for a live environment, recreated perfectly at times such as “The Call of the Wild”, “My Antidote”, “Boulevard of Broken Hearts” and “Mind Your Manners”. But there’s time to tinker with songs like “Serve You Right”, “Driving Rain” and “Lost Inside the Girl”.
As live albums go, Living the Dream Tour is another great one to show the power and dynamic of Slash and his continuing solo adventures. If you’re wanting simply an album full of solo material, then this is definitely the one you’ll want, classics mingling with new gems. It shows the Conspirators as a forward-facing band and if you want to hear them tackle Slash’s myriad of work in other bands, those live albums are always there to be revisited. The DVD portion may not be as necessary as the important elements of a Slash gig are there on the audio and from a production standpoint, have more heft to them. But if you absolutely need to see one of the best bands in modern rock kill it on stage for two hours whilst you wait for the next tour, by all means, dig in.