Music industry insider Victoria Wyatt reviews Slash concert at Rock in Roma.
Rock in Roma 2015 is well underway and on the night of 23 June it showcased the only man in the universe who can pull off a top hat, the “Riff Lord” himself, Slash, with his current band Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.
An individual that wrote four riffs included on Total Guitars' 100 Greatest Riff list, has a star on both the Rock Walk of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as being a Rock Hall of Fame inductee has absolutely nothing left to prove, yet blow our socks off he did.
The band delivered a blistering two-hour set, starting with the 2012 hit single You're a Lie, and ending on the seminal notes of Paradise City – which requires no further information for rock fans as it is etched into all of our souls.
Few things in life are as exciting as hearing the opening chords for epochal anthems such as Sweet Child of Mine, Welcome to the Jungle, and Rocket Queen in a live context, but it is heart-wrenching in a review like this to even have to mention Guns N' Roses or Axl, as Slash's collaboration with Myles Kennedy and his Conspirators is a fabulous project that deserves to be known much more for its own material and personalities than it is currently, as comparison and nostalgia are powerful beasts.
Slash has beaten all the “comeback” odds with projects like Slash's Snakepit and Velvet Revolver, but this collaboration is a strong force that warrants high praise in today's world of highly commercial and artificial so-called rock bands, as the pure musicianship of the band members is palpable. Todd Kearns on bass, Brent Fitz on drums and Frank Sidoris on guitar are masters of their craft, and it must be incredibly hard for them to perform to crowds who are mostly wearing t-shirts supporting Slash's old band.
Kennedy and Slash have a wonderful synergy on stage and have a somewhat unique system of two spotlights, one behind the other, which allows both the vocals and Slash to deliver the goods. Of course Slash only has to start moving towards centre stage for people to start cheering, and when he strikes his traditional pose – right knee cocked, head thrown back and guitar neck pointing skywards, that's the constant cue for the crowd to go wild.
Although we were not treated to a rendition of November Rain, Rome's weather was on our side as the constant wind blowing Slash's (and in fact all of the bandmembers') locks during solos took us back to the iconic video nonetheless. The musical break of Rocket Queen was the highlight of the night as Slash proceeded upon an almost 12-minute Spanish inflected solo that made my fingers bleed just watching it, but was exactly what we were all there to see.
Kennedy's four-octave range was utilised throughout the evening, although the tunes where he is allowed to use his natural tenor shows the full force of his vocals somewhat stronger than the Axl inspired squealy pitch – even if he did use Ron Anderson, Axl's Bel Canto coach. His top secret when it comes to singing ("Dig deep into your soul and sing as if your life depends on it") rings true, as he indeed leaves a mark, and not many singers, rock or otherwise have his power and flexibility.
These boys are for me what rock music is all about. They are men that live and work in the same clothes (Slash's leather pants were possibly more patchwork than leather), constantly have instruments in their hands, music on their minds and perform for every mob in front of them.
No good rock show ends without a fanfare and the closing bars of Paradise City were beautifully enhanced by truckloads of confetti being cannoned across the stage and into the crowd. It was the perfect ending for a show that focused on the two most recent albums that all the band members have worked on as a complete group, and yet provided the ever-loyal crowd with favourites from the past.
And don't forget that “Slash Day” (as awarded by the mayor of West Hollywood in 2010) is coming up on 26 August.
Concert photo Andrea Rapino