It’s been a long time since Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators graced the UK, especially given all its respective members are incredibly busy with other musical efforts. However, last year’s Living the Dream showed the man in the top hat can call his bannermen and give an album worthy of the long wait.
They’ve been touring the rest of the world in support of the album, and now it’s the UK’s turn – and to sweeten the worthwhile wait, the one and only Phil Campbell & the Bastard Sons had the fortune to open for them. No strangers to these pages, they’re a band as comfortable playing to small clubs as they are playing a massive venue like this one. They batter through a hefty portion of The Age of Absurdity with songs like “Step Into the Fire”, “Freakshow”, and “Ringleader”. Setting the bar high and giving their best performance to date, it’s a night dedicated to the art of the riff.
There are tributes given to Motörhead with “Born to Raise Hell”, a high-charged version of Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine” is dedicated, as always, to every member of Motörhead no longer with us. Then, there’s the inimitable, hair-raising bassline to introduce “Ace of Spades” from Tyla Campbell. However, some of the best moments come from the aforementioned Bastard Sons material and shows how comfortable the band are in their skin, not relying heavily on Campbell Sr’s past band. And of course, one of the best moments comes with “Get on Your Knees” with vocalist Neil Starr with his usual splitting of the crowd into Team Phil Campbell and Team Bastard Sons to scream “Get on your knees”. As for the winner this time, it’s fairly evenly matched. The dark “High Rule” closes out the set and with the band at the top of their game, tighter and more energetic than ever, they tease a return to Glasgow in November and I have a feeling it’ll be a much bigger room than G2.
Thunderous intro music and blue lights signal the beginning of a performance that can only be described as a spectacle. Not relying on screens, gimmicks or props, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators allow the music to do the talking as the five-piece batter through opening song “The Call of the Wild”. What follows for the next two hours is Slash and his band of brothers exploring almost a decade of music released under his name. It speaks volumes of the strength of the Conspirators’ music that there’s nothing from Slash’s previous bands, other than “Night Train” which comes pretty late in the evening.
Regardless, the crowd are singing every word. Staples like “Halo”, “Ghost”, “Back From Cali”, “Starlight” and “You’re a Lie” all put in appearances. Meanwhile, there’s a hefty chunk from the new album such as the sultry “Serve You Right”, the punchy “My Antidote”, the thrashy “Mind Your Manners”, the bluesy “Lost Inside the Girl” and the stadium-filler “Driving Rain”. Vocalist Myles Kennedy acknowledges that “Boulevard of Broken Hearts” is a new addition with its first ever outing being the previous night in Manchester and delivers as much heft as the album version.
Kennedy, as ever, is in fine vocal form, covering the entire stage and commanding the crowd effortlessly and as always, is happy to take a back seat for Slash to take his cue to deliver his solos. Meanwhile, bassist Todd Kerns is in just as great form as he takes his own turn on lead vocals for the punky “We’re All Gonna Die” before tributes are paid to Lemmy for “Dr Alibi”. The latter, just as it’s always been, is a highlight of the night. And when he’s not delivering his own lead vocals or backing, he’s making full use of the stage, a constant bundle of energy and black hair.
The band are tighter than they’ve ever been, the chemistry between them unmatched. Slash continually bounces across the stage, clearly happy to have the opportunity to delve into his solo back catalogue. Frank Sidoris handles his rhythm work with aplomb, more comfortable and energetic than before and find himself strolling across a far larger portion of the stage than usual. “Wicked Stone” sees the rest of the band hold down the fort, complete with Kennedy strapping on a guitar to thrash out some notes, whilst Slash delivers a blistering solo on the back of the song. It’s revisited at the end of the set with “World on Fire” as the band are introduced, drummer Brent Fitz delivers a drum solo full of finesse and kept short, displaying his prowess in under a minute.
The encore delivers with the crunchy “Avalon” before the bombastic “Anastasia” brings the night to its conclusion. As one of Slash’s strings gives up towards the end, he battles through to its end, unfazed before switching it out before the final solo of the night. With over three decades of a career, the man in the top hat is playing better than ever, a performance from him which is full of passion and with an excellent band to play with who are enjoying every moment just as much as he is, it’s an evening of live rock and roll which simply cannot be beaten. As the tour rumbles on and the band are at full flight, there may be another long wait ahead for the next tour and album, but if it’s even half as good as this, it will be worth every minute of waiting.