We enjoyed a scenic drive to Northfield early Saturday evening, just me and John Fogerty singing “Born on the Bayou” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” with the windows down. Temps were perfect for late September (mid 70s), the sun still bright at seven o’clock. Traffic was light, and we saw a rafter of turkeys grazing along I-480—and a couple dozen deer frolicking in the fields off Alexander Road.
Of course, it helped that our destination was the Hard Rock, where legendary guitarist Slash was scheduled to perform with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators.
The former Guns ‘n’ Roses shredder is getting to be a regular visitor to these parts: He made his first “Rocksino” appearance last July, delivering a blowout set peppered with new songs and old fan favorites. Then he swung by the Rock and Roll Hall of fame to receive a Vanguard Award from Joe Perry (Aerosmith) at the inaugural AP Awards, where he jammed with fellow honoree Joan Jett.
Slash and his band toured the Rock Hall again Friday, peeking inside its venerable vaults during some downtime on the Lake Erie shore. The venerable institution has become something of a second home for the guitar hero; he was inducted into its Hall of Fame with G ‘n’ R in 2012.
Slash’s September 26 return to Hard Rock was just as electrifying as the initial go-round. The set list wasn’t markedly different, but the group’s spirits were noticeably high—and their already-physical stage presentation running hotter than usual. Still touring behind 2014’s World on Fire, Slash and The Conspirators shoehorned several new tracks into a hits-laden show that drew from all points in the guitarist’s prolific career.
Bounding onstage in black leather pants, sneakers, a sleeveless Specimen (British punk band T-shirt) and his trademark hat and shades, Slash wielded a tobacco-colored Les Paul on the fiery “You’re a Lie” (from 2012’s Apocalyptic Love), initial G ‘n’ R offering “Night Train,” and more recent “Avalon” with bassist Todd “Dammit” Kerns (Age of Electric) anchoring the grooves over Brent Fitz’s (Ecoline Crush, Vince Neil) ferocious drums.
Conspirators singer Myles Kennedy (of Alter Bridge, Mayfield Four) looked more svelte than ever, his muscly, tattooed arms sprouting from a tank top with an upside-down tiger print (it took us a while to figure that out). What’s more, Kennedy’s never sounded better, his powerful pipes booming on “Halo,” “Wicked Stone,” and (2010 Slash goody) “Back from Cali” as rhythm guitarist Frank Sidoris (The Cab) churned out the bristling barre chords.
The capacity crowd loved every minute, taking to their feet early on, their applause and screams of approval creating a biofeedback loop that kept the band pumped.
“This is a rock and roll place right here!” declared Kennedy. “You guys are always f@ckin’ great!”
It’s easy to take for granted just how good a guitarist Slash is—until he’s back in front of you mauling a custom black Gibson on Use Your Illusion II cooker “You Could Be Mine” and World on Fire standout “30 Years to Life.” He never says much (letting his instruments do all the talking), but attacks the strings with a primal passion that suggests there’s nothing he’d rather do more than bring his music to life, whether than means playing to two people or two thousand.
Kerns (in a “Mutant and Proud” tee) gave Kennedy a break by fielding lead vocals on “Doctor Alibi” and “Welcome to the Jungle,” whose familiar staccato guitar intro sent fans into a frenzy. Slash broke out a Guild double-neck guitar for G ‘n’ R’s “Civil War” (and would refer to the instrument again on “Anastasia”), tore into spine-tingling pentatonic solos on “Dissident,” “Rocket Queen,” and “Bent to Fly,” and dusted off a Les Paul gold-top guitar for a sensational “Sweet Child ‘O Mine.”
The five-piece closed out with a run though Velvet Revolver’s “Slither”—but retook the stage in short order for a “Paradise City” party encore.
It’s been almost thirty years since G ‘n’ R’s breakthrough album, but Slash still has that appetite for destruction.
New York trio The Last Internationale heated things up at 8:00pm with thirty minutes of socially-conscious hard rock from their debut disc, We Will Reign.
We couldn’t make out all of Delila Paz’s lyrics, but the sensual singer-bassist and her bandmates gave the Rocksino crowd plenty of Jimi Hendrix-fueled fuzz tones for thought. A snippet of Gil Scott-Heron spoken-word piece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” established a distinctly antiauthoritarian vibe that the trio really plugged into and explored, connecting with enthused early-arrivers.
Last Internationale started life as an acoustic duo, with Paz and guitarist Edgey Pires setting topical verses to jangly measures. But their sound evolved, with Paz taking up a Fender Mustang bass and Pires dialing up the distortion.
The power trio was completed when drummer Brad Wilk (Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine) slid behind the kit for their Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, AC/DC)-produced album.
Wilk didn’t join the band on tour, so the Hard Rock saw another percussionist fill in capably on “Wanted Man,” “Killing Fields,” and “Hard Times.” Clad in a star-adorned shirt, Pires wailed, bending his guitar strings and hoisting the axe over his head as Paz propelled the meters (sometimes falling to her knees in front of the amps).
Time to renew our passport: The Last Internationale are must-watch newcomers worthy of further exploration.