Who: Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators / Devilskin
Where: Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney
When: Monday January 28th, 2019
Review: Matt Doria (Website)
Photos: Britt Andrews (Facebook / Twitter / Patreon)
It's the last night of a long weekend that most of us spent too sloshed to stand. The black shirts and servo sunnies are out in full force, and though a typically bustling Qudos Bank Arena feels a little more understated than usual (our guess is that it peaks at half-capacity), those who braved the storms and soul-crushing hangovers to be here more than make up for the sparsity – they're loud, they're proud, and they're goddamn starving for some rock'n'roll. And by gum, they've come to the right place!
Kicking off the show are the Kiwi metallers in Devilskin, armed with an arsenal of ripping, Southern-twinged guitar solos and enough overdriven crunch to make axeman Tony Vincent's affinity for the odd deathcore record show. It's a slow-burner of a set: the first few cuts are as bland and uninspired as their aesthetic (we get it, you like your whiskey neat and your motorbikes comically loud), but as the band loosen up in their stature, so too does their fare. Sneak peeks of Devilskin's impending fourth album have their crowd in a flurry, Vincent laying into a shiny black Les Paul with the venomous might of the man he's supposed to be hyping us up for. And hell hath no fury like the vocal gymnastics of frontwoman Jennie Skulander, whose honey-sweetened harmonies pave way for black tar gutturals that whip through the venue like a pack of rabid coyotes.
As much as we'd love to heap praise on the show's other lead vocalist (none other than Alter Bridge icon and Slash's long-term go-to, Myles Kennedy), the man's chops are in especially poor shape tonight. It sounds like his idea of a 'rehersal' was to chain-smoke a box of cigars and gurgle a handful of tacks; it's especially jarring when it comes to slower jams like "The One You Loved Is Gone", where if it weren't for Slash's serpentine solo and swoon-worthy noodling, there'd be little incentive to stick around for the ending. Bassist Todd Kerns takes over for the one-two punch of "We're All Gonna Die" and "Dr. Alibi" (two choice cuts from Slash's eponymous 2010 LP), and – shock and awe – he absolutely crushes it. Why Slash doesn't just give Kennedy the flick and put Kerns upfront full-time is far beyond us.
Thankfully, the rest of The Conspirators are all in ace shape for the two-hour jamfest. Kerns' basswork is faultlessly sharp and adds a toothsome bit of 'oomph' to a mix otherwise dominated by the clean collision of unfiltered Les Pauls. On drums, Brent Fitz is menacingly manic and never shies away from an excuse to beat the everliving shit out of his cymbals. And though he's playing backup to one of rock's most venerable superheroes, rhythm guitarist Frank Sidoris spares not an ounce of his talent, pushing each of his battered Gibson frets to their utmost limits. He outright steals the spotlight on anthems like "Bent To Fly" and "Nightrain" (surprisingly, the only nugget of Gunners gold we're fed), where his pumping underbelly juts spur chaotic cheers.
And then there's Slash himself. Within seconds of the gurgling, fists-in-the-air riff that opens "The Call Of The Wild", we're reminded why he keeps popping up on the cover of Australian Guitar (most recently in last December's issue, #130): the man doesn't just simply play the instrument. He taps up and down the neck with ungodly precision, as though he's picking the locks on a million-dollar bank safe; he carresses the strings on softer moments with a true lover's touch and digs hard in the heavy sections with fierce, unrelenting rage, harnessing the guitar's true power through moves no mere mortal's fingertips should be able to muster. Hell, at a certain point you have to wonder if Slash took a page from Futurama's book and made a deal with the Devil for the perfect pair of soloing hands.
The tophatted debonair spends most of the night plucking away at his signature sunburst Les Paul (a remake of the classic Appetite For Destruction model to be exact), which grinds out a punchy, punk-ready tone. It's his glistening '56 Goldtop that drops the most jaws, however, every melody he swings on it angelically creamy and every dig punishingly sharp. Though a few more Guns N' Roses songs – maybe even a deep cut from the Velvet Revolver archives – wouldn't have gone astray, tonight's setlist covers a decent spread of Slash's discography. Living The Dream is clearly still too fresh to the crowd's palate to belly more than a few errant fist-pumps, but the songs are played with such authentic ferocity that they're sure to become classics in due time.
Come the deafening wallops of "Anastasia" (met with equally cataclysmic appraisal), Slash has well and truly maintained his status as one of rock's most impenetrable guitarists. He may be pushing 54, but the Cali-via-London shredder is still ripping with the energy of an overly caffeinated 20-something.
Catch our full gallery of photos from Slash in Sydney after the jump!