May 3, 2012

Slash - Ram's Head Live

By Bob Suehs

www.rocknrollexperience.com

Slash & Miles Kennedy / Brand New Sin / Hillbilly Herald

May 3, 2012

Ram’s Head Live

Baltimore, Maryland

Slash Set list:

Mean Bone, Dirty Little Thing, Ghost, Nightrain, Rocket Queen, Back from Cali, Sucker Train Blues, Standing in the Sun, Fall to Pieces, Dr. Alibi, Speed Parade, Watch This, Starlight, You're a Lie, My Michelle, Just Like Anything, Sweet Child o' Mine, Slither, By the Sword, Paradise City

Hillbilly Herald Set list:

Full Throttle, Dead On The Money, Greedy Me, TNT (AC/DC Cover), Yellow Belly, Rock N Roll

Brand New Sin Set List:

Goddess, Death, Dead Man, Elbow Grease, All My Wheels, My Loved / World, Bed of Nails, The Lord

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Opening night of the Slash/Miles Kennedy 2012 tour was a bombastic night of riff rock, loud guitars and old school rock n roll the likes of which the rock world has not seen in quite some time!

Slash & company where actually in town all week rehearsing for this tour at Ram’s Head Live and it’s interesting how they put together a set list that covered all the eras of Slash’s career from the early GNR material, the biggest hits of Velvet Revolver & a handful o’ solo Slash songs.

This show featured nothing performed off the first Snakepit record and the addition of “Fall To Pieces” was actually brilliant in my opinion because “Fall To Pieces” is essentially the sister song of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and both songs were played at this show!

I just skipped right to the meat of this review and I apologize for that but the thing is, when Slash took the stage you couldn’t help but think, “Wow, the original guitarist from GNR is onstage in a small club!” It was very surreal to grow up hearing all the classic GNR material and then see the man, the myth, the hair & the top hat....the guy who influenced countless guitarists...f**king Slash was here!

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To go back to the beginning of the night, security was interestingly tight for this show...they utilized metal detector wands and checked all bags, pockets & crevices where people might hide contraband!

Going back just a bit, the only other time I’d seen security quite so tight at Ram’s Head Live was when Vinnie Paul from Pantera played his first show after the tragic Dimebag slaying...my assumption was simply that Slash was taking no chances when it came to crazy fans since he was playing a smaller club as opposed to the larger arenas where fans have no access to him.

Slash had a security guy who followed him everywhere he went both onstage & offstage and what I will say about Slash’s bodyguard is that he wasn’t a rude person. Slash’s security guy was actually nice & treated people decent...some artists hire security who treat people rude & Slash’s security guy knew how to treat people & Slash clearly did not forget where he came from because he was nice to his fans and didn’t give the big rock star/dick attitude like some rock stars do.

The show started after 8 PM with Hillbilly Herald opening the show. Hillbilly Herald sounded good and I’d call their brand of music “Truck Stop Rock N Roll” because they looked like redneck truckers and they clearly played it up a bit because some guys in the band came off more “hick-ish” than others & the coolest thing they had to offer onstage was a mic stand made out of PBR cans!

The Hillbilly Herald set included a cover of “TNT” by AC/DC and their cover was solid BUT it was so predictable to cover that song....they would have been better off choosing a song to cover that was a little under used. The guitar tone the band had was really good though....lotsa grit, thick & their distortion was just right because often times an opening band will sound sludgy in the mix but H.H. sounded just right from where I was standing!

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Brand New Sin were 2nd on the bill & this band has REALLY changed since the last time I saw them!

They added a new guitar player who looked like he should have been in a country band & the bands sound actually went more mainstream as opposed to the chunky rock sound they had previously. I’m actually on the fence with what I saw from Brand New Sin because they didn’t really leave a mark this night.....I saw them play & I didn’t think they were great, nor did I think they were horrible...they were sadly just playing music that I won’t remember because there was nothing memorable in their set!

With Hillbilly Herald the band had the “hillbilly” niche & they played on that...at the very least you’ll remember their PBR mic stand....with Brand New Sin they reminded me of a local band in that they got up there, played their set and there was no flashiness, no catchy songs, very limited crowd participation and I blame that mostly on the fact that they need a real frontman to take the band to the next level...when Joe left the band as lead singer they lost their leader onstage. For what it’s worth Brand New Sin were not horrible, they just made no mark on me and sadly the crowd said the same thing!

The crowd was mostly older folks and it was almost the same identical crowd who went to see AXL’s GNR play Maryland just a few months prior which makes perfect sense but I was just a little surprised to not see more younger people in attendance because Slash is such an influential player.

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The stage set up had a large backdrop with the new Slash/Miles Kennedy logo that had a Les Paul guitar with 2 women in the middle...one was an angel & the other was a devil and the artwork actually looked pretty cool. One of the T-shirt designs being sold at this show was a rip off of the old school Ramone’s logo & it had all the band members names wrapped in a circle ala the Ramones logo.

The stage utilized alot o’ back lighting and at times the back lights were so bright that it was almost blinding to the crowd depending upon where you were standing & I think they did this to give a big rock feel to the small stage....the large lights in the back almost reminded me of a football field at times and I also think it doubled as a way to prevent fans from filming too much quality footage of the band playing because when the lights shined on the crowd it pretty much blinded most iphones & cameras with the sheer intensity of the lights!

Slash came out wearing a wrinkled black t-shirt with rolled up sleeves & he never took his top hat & glasses off while onstage for the entire show. During the encore set Slash did take off his shirt for the last 2 songs & I’ll be honest here....Slash should leave his shirt on because he’s an older man at this point & no one wants to see that....I mean he’s in good shape BUT there’s something odd about his chest because he’s kinda ripped yet he looks like he doesn’t put enough effort into it because his chest looks a tab flabby & he has man-boobs which just look odd....I’m not saying this to be harsh, I’m just telling the truth and stating what the crowd was saying as well. The best way I can describe Slash’s chest is that it had this weird plastic look like the comedian Carrot Top’s chest.

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With this being opening night of the tour there was a small flub where Slash had an issue with his guitar & stopped a song, then started it over from the beginning BUT to be honest with you he could have just played it off because no one would have really known if he was just jamming!

Miles Kennedy added ALOT to every song & I give it to Slash for putting together a kick ass backing band....Todd on bass was the perfect fit and I’ll tell you what, if Slash ever lets Todd go he’s a fool because Todd adds alot onstage...he’s got the rock star looks, rock star attitude & he interacts with the crowd to a point where he makes you wanna sing along & cheer! Todd even sang lead vocals at one point during the set and that’s the beauty of the band Slash put together...each member of his current band has their own energy, their own vibe & they are ALL really good players!

When you compare AXL’s current GNR to Slash’s current band it’s clear who really maintained the rock n roll vibe and who went into another direction all together...Slash captured the essence of what GNR used to be with his current band & he played a 2 hour set that literally covered EVERY base quite well.

Miles sounded great onstage and the interesting thing about Miles vocals is that when you hear him on the latest Live Slash record you can clearly hear it’s Miles voice & hear the differences in Miles as opposed to AXL or Weiland, BUT, when you see Miles perform live onstage his vocals come off differently & you honestly don’t even notice the range differences between him & Weiland & AXL because Miles puts so much into his singing that he owns EVERY song he sings!

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Miles only played guitar for one song at this show & it’s clear that Miles feels more comfortable with a guitar strapped on than he does just singing because you could see his hands moving throughout the night & the slight uneasiness he had here and there when he was only singing was apparent...Miles is such a great guitarist BUT I totally understand that this is the Slash show & Miles is utilized ONLY a lead singer for this project.

Slash & company only played 2 songs off the upcoming studio record & they both sounded good....”You’re A Lie” was the one everyone knew & I swear to you, every time I hear that song the chorus where Miles sings “You’re a Lie” reminds me of “Thriller” by Michael Jackson!

The encore was 2 songs long & it was interesting that Slash closed the show the same identical way AXL did with his version of GNR when GNR played Maryland a few month prior....”Paradise City” was the closer & it was a flurry of confetti..... both sides of the stage had giant confetti & steam cannons which literally covered the entire venue with black & silver confetti while white steam blew out which really added the BIG rock show feel.

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The show ended quite well, the crowd was very happy, everyone got what they came for, Slash delivered a kick ass rock show and my only interesting side note would be that when you see Slash onstage with his current backing band you can clearly see Slash is a little older than the guys he has with him....in my mind I was reminded of Carlos Santana because Slash has jammed with EVERYONE over the years and much like Carlos Santana, Slash has assembled a backing band that highlights his playing, BUT with Slash’s current band I think Todd, Brent & Miles make Slash look a little older up there simply because those guys are clearly younger than him.

After the show was over Miles & Slash came out to meet fans & I’ll admit it meant alot to me to have Slash autograph one of my favorite records of all time!