Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, Hillbilly Herald, Zengrez

Posted August 15, 2013 in

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators had an uproarious crowd spellbound by his guitar-shreddin' magic! Photo: Samantha Kanzler of Kanzlerfoto

If you grow up playing guitar as I did, Guns N’ Roses, and thus Slash, are essential reference points for your musical cultural education. What’s more was that my dad came of age during the height of butt rock, so driving in his Jimmy, I became well acquainted with Appetite for Destruction and GNR’s covers, like “Nice Boys,” which would shape my sense of guitar listening. With that sense of rock tradition, I was stoked to share this experience with my dad. Needless to say, I was MEGA STOKED to see Slash's stylings on the axe.

My expectations were confirmed that Wednesday night as I entered Park City Live: The attendees for the Slash show consisted of now-established middle-agers looking to experience the music on which the ’80s weaned them, suburbanite 20- and 30-somethings raised on Utah radio, and Pantera-style metalheads looking to bask in Slash’s shredderdom, rock n’ roll kitsch notwithstanding. Upon entering, as my dad suggested, I would compare Park City Live to The Depot in Salt Lake, with a little bit of Bar X’s swagger—it’s nice, well lit and the bar is in a central location that makes it easy to get drinks and return to the concert experience.
Zengrez opened up the show with some straight-up radio rock. The members who stood out most for me were the stage left guitarist and the singer at center stage. The guitarist was INTO it, jumping around and bending into power stances as he played his solos. He had that Rolling Stone rock n’ roll dentist-receptionist haircut with a blonde streak, and he totally looked strung out. The singer was … not as into it. He sang with a deep, Axl Rose–esque tone over mid-tempo beats, and had this sort of teased-out Jew ’fro. He sort of looked like a cross between Bob Saget and Howard Stern, and wore sunglasses with red lenses. Their bassist looked vaguely like The Dude, and their stage right guitarist was good at harmonizing as their drummer head banged to add some needed pizazz to their stage energy. Overall, they weren’t bad at what they play—sort of ’80s butt rock meets ’90s grunge metal—but it just wasn’t quite my cup of tea. I took out my earplugs to hear stage right guitarist’s licks, which I found helped deepen their lukewarm appeal (I wanted to be able to hear Slash’s solos, too). They played a short set of about five or six songs.
My dad and I went to get another beer. When he pretty clearly stated that he wanted to get change by giving much more than what our drinks were worth, the bartender somehow construed it as him giving her a WAY fat tip. Ah: to be a hot, blonde 20-something babe, entitled to tips. Hillbilly Herald took the stage to belt out some dirty-ass butt rock. They clearly gave zero fucks and were there to rock. I would give them a SLUG equation of "Gypsy Hawk + AC/DC." They clearly went for an American muscle branding of heavy metal—their singer rocked a red bandanna over his head, biker style, with a tad-grown-out goatee and sang with a PBR wizard-staff mic stand; his bassist had a rad ZZ Top beard. They played straight-up rock n' roll with mean pentatonic guitar licks n' solos. The one criticism that I would have would be with the sound engineering: The bass was turned up a lot louder than the guitars, which could have used a mid and high boost to hear the sweet riffs and licks. One thing that I wasn't miffed about, though, was the stage presence that their singer embodied—he must have called the audience "motherfuckers" about 20 times. I respect that. The drummer slammed hard on his skins and held his sticks about halfway up their length—probably so he wouldn't drop the damned things. Hillbilly Herald's penultimate song was a cover of "TNT" by AC/DC, which tore the house down as everybody shouted and fist-pumped along with the lyrics. They announced that their closer came along with a music video, called "Shame on Me." Unfortunately, that song was obviously their made-for-radio "single," and it seemed too cliche and didn't gel well with the rest of their raw set—what a shame!
Of course, it took Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators a good while to get set up, but nobody cared. People packed in and were waiting attentively. Once the intro music began, people were sufficiently riled and liquored up, and Slash and his contracted band were in full force. Myles Kennedy's vocal style is something that I would describe as pop NWOBHM: He hit the notes that any heavy metal singer would, but imbued them with the deep blues character that Axl Rose employed in the progenitorial era of Guns N' Roses. Also, the question of whether it was Slash's "band," per se, or Slash playing with another band wasn't readily answered, as a few of their songs seemed unfamiliar to the casual GNR fan and yet wildly familiar when they played the hits: Once they hit (prematurely, from my extremely subjective viewpoint) "Night Train," it didn't even matter as my dad and I shouted, "I'm on the night train!" like we were both back in high school. I head banged hard to that one. Slash—aside from shredding as he's done for his profession for years—exuded a DGAF attitude, as he rocked a shirt that said, "Fuck you you fuckin' fuck" devoid of commas (like an O.G. rock n' roller). Slash and the Myles Kennedy band sidled into "Mr. Brownstone," in which Slash exhibited his solo prowess using the wah pedal amid changing—seemingly—from minor to major scales. After that song, Slash introduced himself with an über-cool "Yo."
The band played a couple slow jams, the second of which was a power ballad, which was boring—we all were there to "rock"! The complete demographic to which Slash appeals was made clearer as I glanced at the tour artwork on the left side of the venue which included an angel-and-devil girl visual motif—tawdry but appropriate. Once the bassist, Todd Kerns, switched vocal duties with Kennedy, the fire was re-ignited, as he sung with a good n' fast, tr00 metal candor that took me off guard—I thought that he was, actually, better than Kennedy. He took the band into "Welcome To The Jungle," which, of course, solicited unbounded response from the audience. This, however, was nothing compared to their response after Slash busted out what seemed to be a 15-minute solo that traversed funk techniques bolstered by the tone of his Les Paul. His bit traversed largely blues-influenced solo work (which, I realized, underpins much of Slash's style), under which Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators backed him well in terms of dynamics and letting his playing shine through. Ultimately, Slash took this epic solo into a neoclassical realm that featured deft sweeps and bends as the rock n' roll exploded into a hungry fervor throughout those in attendance.
Slash proceeded with a clean neoclassical guitar étude to introduce "Annastasia." He eventually segued into a beautifully distorted electric, melodic guitar melody that matched the Phantom of the Opera tone of the song. Ultimately, Slash, with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, hit us with "Paradise City," which sent us into raptures—but that was after my phone died as I was trying to record the band playing "Sweet Child O' Mine" to send to my brother. No matter the song order, Slash's prodigious guitar skills live on to carry GNR songs to a point where they're like folk songs around a campfire, ready to be experienced. They're American classics—and my dad had a lot of fun with me watching the guitar legend.
Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators had an uproarious crowd spellbound by his guitar-shreddin' magic! Photo: Samantha Kanzler of Kanzlerfoto