[LIVE REVIEW] Slash Feat. Myles & The Conspirators @ Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne 01/02/2019

Fans of hard rock from all over have been keenly anticipating this night for a long while and for a range of extremely exciting reasons, not least of which is the return of the string shredding maestro himself.  For we the fan faithful assembled at Margaret Court Arena, the presence of Slash is worth the ticket price alone but so much more is placed upon the table of hard rock heaven and we seated ready at the banquet await serving of pure delight.

Our smorgasbord of incredible offerings this evening is liberally seasoned with an array of items worthy of celebration and certainly the cause of many months and for some lifetimes of eager anticipation.  I am by no means alone in yearning to hear the golden voice of Myles Kennedy since his last visit with Alter Bridge but also following the release of his long-awaited solo album Year Of The Tiger last year.  An evening of listening to Myles sing is rock joy for all those who have experienced his unique and magnificent style and his work with Slash over the years has enhanced his appeal significantly with opportunities for style exploration and dare I allege a few prompts from Saul himself to engage unfamiliar territory head on.  Myles was, in fact, hesitant to join the Slash entourage initially but following a few no-shows and some enriching discussions with Slash, Myles took to the mic on a more permanent basis and contributed to the Slash debut album and has featured on three more since, namely   Apocalyptic Love in 2012, World on Fire in 2014 and the latest magnum opus Living the Dream in 2018.  The unique style and appeal of Myles Kennedy are two of many reasons that he is widely regarded as a musical magician.  For me, he has stamped his signature as one of the greatest musicians and rock vocalists of all time and to witness his prowess in bewildered awe once again, is a privilege indeed. 

Another reason for keen anticipation and rejoicing tonight is the aforementioned fact that the 2018 Living the Dream album is just so astonishingly magnificent and to think that we will be treated to some of the tracks from that very collection tonight is quite overwhelming.  Many of us in Australia tonight are very thankful to TEG Dainty for arranging an Australian visit so soon after the release of this incredible album.

Further grounds for merriment is the return of The Conspirators themselves namely (in no particular order goddammit) Todd Kearns, Frank Sidoris and Brent Fitz.

Todd ‘Dammit’ Kearns is a multitalented musician who hails from Saskatchewan, Canada originally and established his flamboyance, musical skill and technical prowess as a singer, guitarist, writer and producer over many years and a plethora of quality ventures.  His distinguished list of achievements includes work with Age Of Electric, Brent Muscat’s Faster Pussycat, Sin City Sinners, Toque with bandmate Brent Fitz and a myriad of collaborations along with brilliant solo work such as Go Time which demands attention in their own right.  Watch him once on stage and you will understand my unreserved enthusiasm to see him perform again. 

My enthusiasm extends to the great Las Vegas native Frank Sidoris who formally kicked off his career as a blisteringly brilliant guitarist with The Cab until taking on rhythm guitar duties with Slash and The Conspirators in 2012.  His powerful skill as a support to the master need only be summed up in one utterance I heard during a discussion among fans some years ago namely “is he great? He was chosen by Slash and now plays at the right hand of THE guitar god”.  Nuff said methinks.

Now all of these musicians are utterly astounding and worth every cent to see solo, but with Brent Fitz at the kit, The Conspirators are complete and the excitement is ready to erupt into celebration. Brent, like Todd, is also from Canada and started out in earnest at the age of 15 with New Alliance and progressed to Seventh Heaven and Shake Naked, but when he struck a Union with heavy hitters John Corabi, Bruce Kulick, and Jamie Hunting, Brent’s exhaustive list of ‘big name’ collaborations really took shape.  To say ‘he has shared the stage with them all’ seems to lack sufficient reverence for such a distinguished musical career, but what is due him is the awe of we who know what he can play, how he can play them and how incredibly outstanding a musician he is. 

Oh, and a dude called Slash is playing too.

Now if you thought that such a list of reasons for unharnessed glee could not grow any larger we have further special reason to celebrate because supporting on both the NZ and Australia shows are the incredibly talented, monumentally dynamic and amazingly appealing band Devilskin from New Zealand.  Consisting of Jennie Skulander, The Nail, Paul Martin and Nic Martin.  The elder metal statesmen of this magnificent band from across the ditch are Paul (bass) and Nail (lead guitar) are adorned with red beards  for ease of identification (and I believe in homage to ‘Dimbag’ Darryl Abbott) and Nic at the kit is Paul’s son making this quite the family affair, but don’t let that mask the reality that this hard-hitting foursome are a formidable, capable and thoroughly captivating metal force.

As proceedings commence with Devilskin I am witness to history repeating as the crowd assembled are left mouth agape in awe of this sensational band exactly as was the case with every other Australian show I have seen them perform.  Devilskin knocked the sock off of Halestorm crowds all over Australia in 2017 and here we go again.  Its become quite the game for me to watch the crowd react to this awesome outfit.  Jennie possesses the ability to vocalise between the polar extremes of an angelic voice from aloft to the demonic howls of a tormented soul, slightly south of said angel.   Nail carries each note and every riff with tremendous skill and often instrumentally entwines with Paul in carrying a hugely appealing cohesive metal sound, all to the skillful beat of Nic at the kit.  Nic has long shuffled off the youthful ‘son of Paul’ persona and is a powerhouse drummer with his own style and percussive prowess.  As they roll through the hits from their awesome albums Be Like The River and We Rise, along with a few new offerings the raw power of this four creates yet another group of bewildered onlookers who have become fervent admirers of such a brilliant heavy metal band.  Every time, every show, 100 percent offered and not an ounce left in reserve.  Devilskin thrill each and every time. Tonight is no different.  I remember Lzzy Hale rocking side stage to Devilskin in Melbourne in 2017 and I would not be the slightest bit surprised if Slash was doing the same during this blistering set.  A thoroughly sensational opener worthy of stand-alone accolades and cries of  “headline us Devilskin and make it soon”. Brilliant.

But now to the long-awaited main event and no matter the passage of time, opportunities to speak with these living legends in interview or encounters in person, nothing seems to ever dilute the raw thrill and bursting chest excitement as Slash, Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators take to the stage.

Launching straight into The Call Of The Wild could not be more fitting nor thrilling.  As the first offering on Living The Dream, this is the perfect beginning to the show and reality sets in that they are finally here and right before us.

Halo follows as track two and immediately it is apparent that we will be encountering a mix of tracks from the Slash catalog to fuel a thoroughly amazing show.

As the fog of wonderment fades and one incapable of considering what makes this band so very special.  As one gapes in amazement at the incredible skill of Slash, the tremendous vocal talent of Myles, the rhythmic bass mastery of Todd, the pounding drum excellence of Brent and Frank holding firm in phenomenally tremendous style on rhythm guitar you realise what must surely be at the heart of the pulsing and productive rock monolith.  The tremendous wealth of rock experience that each band member brings to this equation must surely explain why everything they touch turns to gold.  These people live, breathe and perform everything that is great about hard rock music and really, a modern-day master and living legend in Slash would settle for nothing less than the very best.  That is exhaustive evident here tonight.  Each element of raw talent working together as a rock collective hive of brilliance. Coincidentally and at that moment I find myself lucky enough to be near some newcomers to the Slash live in concert experience and I realise just how many have come to see the master at work for the very first time.  Loud, excited, even violent exclamations of adoration for the bands’ performance, all in the moderately fruity Aussie vernacular are a joy to behold.  Neither should you hold back.  The assembly of rock royalty before us providing practiced, polished performance and turned up to eleven is the stuff of legend.

Long held fan favourites prompt thrilled screams of approval for an adoring crowd.  This band sure know exactly how to keep a pulse of energy through a live performance to the point where even the crowd will be thoroughly spent by the finale.

I find myself contemplating the tremendous myriad of influences and collaborations that have helped forge the music presented by this awesome outfit.  We’re All Gonna Die from Slash’s solo debut I leave me expecting Iggy Pop to blast onto the stage but then a sadness passes over me that Doctor Alibi from the same album will never again prompt gravelly brilliance of Lemmy Kilmister.

The thrilling hits keep rolling through like a freight…no… Nightrain! Well, its mandatory at a Slash gig anyway and it pumps the crowd up like always. A very different atmosphere to the bands’ last appearance in Melbourne at Festival Hall during Soundwave sideshows in 2015 but no less a thrilling experience.  Every inch of Margaret Court arena is a writhing celebration of rock.

Todd’s backing vocals on Halo are tremendous and Slash just keeps proving with every note that he is a living guitar god whose excellence and inventiveness keeps getting better with every day that passes.

Starlight is always a significant highlight as the track that started it all for Slash and Myles.  The track was written by the pair for the debut album, sung by Myles on that esteemed collection and marking the genesis of this brilliant collaboration.  This is, of course, the perfect moment for illuminated iPhones and, believe it or not, some old school cigarette lighters.  Ever the dedicated professional,  Myles thumps his chest correcting the occasional hoarse note back into order.  We later discover that he has been ill and wasn’t sure if he could perform but delighted the Melbourne audience with the reassurance that the crowd energy kept him firing.  And who could ever allege that Myles is capable of a bum note.  The man is an incredible vocalist and even Slash uttered: “I only play guitar, this guy fucken’ sings”.  After band intros and Brent’s ‘crazy drum shit’, a bra is thrown to the stage in obvious fan appreciation for the support? Anyway, the roadie was loathed to pick it up as it was unceremoniously kicked to stage left.

As the band ignite the World Of Fire and retire from their last set track, and despite a mammoth and thoroughly captivating performance the crowd loudly demands an encore from this thrilling group.

Thankfully they oblige with a fitting encore of Avalon from World On Fire followed by the haunting and epic Anastasia from Apocalyptic Love and alas that brings about the end of another monumentally phenomenal concert of epic proportions. 

The one key element that separates a show from Slash, Myles Kennedy, Todd Kearns, Frank Sidoris and Brent Fitz from any other, for me at least is the overwhelming feeling that you are aching for it to start all over again. One could watch each of these artists performing on their own for hours and still be amazed by their incredible talent but them all together is life changing.   It’s a little unfair to go to a gig following this and then have those others compete for your choice of year topping show.  Or lifetime favourite for that matter. 

At least we have the chance to jump a Perth bound plane to see them one last time before they bless other regions of the world with their musical master.  But then the wait begins.  The longing for Slash, Myles and the Conspirators to return and thrill us all over again so completely with utterly brilliant performances and the most sensational of hard rock music.  

The last wait was four years and tonight made every second so very worthwhile.  Somehow together the group seems even more thrilling than ever before.  Yet the feeling of bewildered bliss has you wondering….could they return later this year, made next or perhaps the year after because you can’t wait for their return and witness it all over again.  Then you realise how few bands leave you feeling as such and hope abounds for a speedy return.

Thank you, Slash.  Thank you, Myles.  Todd, Brent and Frank,  You have done it again.  Your skill, your soaring performances and your determination to utterly thrill.  The show of a lifetime and fond hard rockin’ memories abound forever.  A treasured benchmark in our very existence.  How many are capable of this?  Thank you TEG dainty.

Review Contributed by Casper

Gallery By Tess