MANILA, Philippines - In the latest musical case of better late than never, local rock fans will finally get to see Slash perform live. He will, in fact, be part of an ensemble whose full moniker is Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, in line with the world tour to promote their 2012 CD “Apocalyptic Love.”
That 5-man band may have been formed just two years ago, but Slash has been in the business much longer, and is a familiar figure to rock fans and pop culture enthusiasts alike.
The 47-year-old English-American (real name: Saul Hudson) has been an esteemed rock guitarist and iconic, music-biz fixture for over 20 years. Not only has he played in a succession of bands, he has also been a sessionist on latter-day albums by, among others, Alice Cooper, Bob Dylan, Lenny Kravitz, Iggy Pop, Rihanna, and the late Michael Jackson.
Slash has likewise appeared, trademark top hat, shades and all, on TV shows, including Disney Channel’s animated hit "Phineas and Ferb" and as a guest mentor on "American Idol." He has also been in movies such as "Private Parts" and "Brüno." He is also one of the playable rock stars in "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" and even did his own take on the theme song of another video game, "Angry Birds Space." He even inspired this viral meme.
All his numerous, game-for-anything ventures aside, Slash is a hard-rock household name because of one indelible factor: his (in)famous, ’80s-to-’90s band, Guns N’ Roses.
While Slash had been playing guitar since 1981, it was only in joining GNR that he and that band hit the big time. GNR’s debut album, “Appetite for Destruction” was released in ’87, some two years since Guns N’ Roses’ formation, and it exploded worldwide, selling billions of copies and yielding hits that have remained solid to fans of Slash or GNR lead singer Axl Rose alike. (Clint Eastwood-ites might recall seeing them cameo in "The Dead Pool," where a yet-to-be-popular Jim Carrey also lipsynched the GNR hit “Welcome to the Jungle.”)
In 1996, Slash officially left Guns N’ Roses. This following a heady decade that, amid massive success via sold-out concerts and million-sellers like the twin ’91 albums “Use Your Illusion I” and “…II,” were also marked by a drug-addled lifestyle and internal strife within the so-called Most Dangerous Band in the World.
Yet shortly before quitting Guns, Slash had already formed a side band, Slash’s Snakepit, which co-featured two of his GNR mates: rhythm guitarist Gilby Clark and drummer Matt Sorum. The group eventually released a couple of albums before disbanding in 2002.
Slash soon got to jam anew with two GNR mates, Sorum and bassist Duff McKagan. This led to the formation of a new band, Velvet Revolver, featuring then former Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland on lead vocals. Velvet Revolver got to release two, fairly celebrated albums before Weiland rejoined STP, leaving VR on, to date, a continued hiatus.
Image by EMI Music
While Slash’s career post-GNR has been comparatively patchy and his myriad ventures quite the smorgasbord, observers and admirers seem united in praising his guitar-playing as exceptional. Armed with his favored Gibson Les Paul guitar, which is plugged to his preferred Marshall amplifier, Slash has made his electric strings wail, roar, and rumble in solos and song backdrops — his creative riffing an amalgam of mostly rock and blues influences.
His undeniable talent, coupled with an apparent yearning to play guitar as much, and as loud, as possible, has made him soldier on as a musician. This led to his first “solo” album, 2010’s “Slash,” which featured a diversity of guest vocalists — including Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Cornell, Dave Grohl, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas. One of that record’s guest singers, US native Myles Kennedy of the Creed spin-off Alter Bridge (and a dead ringer of Jim Carrey off “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”), went on to tour with Slash for the latter’s eponymous disc.
Collaborating with Kennedy on that album and its companion tour proved to be the beginning of a musical friendship, one that has extended to the latest CD to bear the Slash name: 2012’s “Apocalyptic Love.” That relatively new album is a 15-song dynamite (inclusive of two bonus tracks), a cohesive, full-on hard rock assault that is free from the distracting vocal diversity of its immediate predecessor and was overseen by “Slash” lead producer Eric Valentine.
There is a palpable, ’80s-rock rawness to the “Apocalyptic” tunes — owing to the use of analog equipment, the occasional distortion and a general unleashing of crunchy, stomping, ear-blasting rock. Guitar aficionados, agree or disagree as they might with Slash’s self-assessment that Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page is his lead musical ancestor, would have a field day dissecting “Love’s” power chords, speed lines and what-not (though a pessimistic few might dismiss his blistering picking and scratching as same old Slash).
It helps that Kennedy, who also played rhythm guitar on the album and shared songwriting duties with Slash, is a sufficiently versatile singer, gifted with enough octaves to nearly match the lead guitarist’s own medium-to-high screech range and the fast-to-faster pace across the tracks. Rounding up the band on record are “The Conspirators”: Canadians Todd Kerns on bass and backing vocals and Brent Fritz on drums.
While “Apocalyptic Love,” contrary to its kilometric authorship, comes off as a star-free endeavor, audiophiles would notice that Slash’s aural presence is concentrated on the right speaker — perhaps to stress who’s in charge, the head honcho’s unassuming, non-rock snob persona aside.
All told, attendees of Slash and company’s Philippine gig would be pleased to know that, per the band’s earlier gigs this year, the coming local show would be less of an “Apocalyptic Love” showcase and more of a Slash retrospective.
As such, the new album’s more crowd-pleasing tunes, such as “Halo,” “Anastasia” and “You’re a Lie,” could be played alongside “Watch This,” “Back from Cali” and “Starlight” from “Slash,” as well as a Velvet Revolver and Slash’s Snakepit cut or two and, best of all, cherished Guns N’ Roses numbers such as “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (with Kerns alternating with Kennedy as Axl Rose proxy).
Whether you are new to the Slash canon or have been keeping up since “Appetite for Destruction,” beholding him and his current mates, as two of his tunes go, would be a swell occasion to “dirty up your halo” and could remind you of “childhood memories when everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky.”
Here is the music video for 'You’re a Lie,' the lead single off the album ‘Apocalyptic Love’:
‘Apocalyptic Love’ is an EMI Music release distributed in the Philippines by Ivory Music and Video. Tickets to the May 4 concert by Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators are available via Ticketnet.