Slash Still Shreds at House of Blues

Slash feat. Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators
House of Blues
May 23, 2015

It’s been a bumpy road for Slash over the past 20 years. Following his unceremonious exit from Guns N’ Roses, the band that made him an international superstar, the famed guitarist has given it a go with a succession of groups, to varying degrees of interest from the public at large. Following the split-up of Velvet Revolver in 2008, he’s been busying himself with a solo act that has evolved into the unit now known as Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, and while the group hasn’t returned him to the stadiums he once played, he remains clean and sober and not doing half bad for himself these days.

It sure doesn’t hurt that he’s still one of the most recognizable guitarists of all time. A packed house full of middle-aged rockers with cash to burn turned out at House of Blues on Saturday night to hear a few old favorites and see if Slash can still shred.

After an energetic opening set by Fozzy, Slash and pals took the stage, opening with the uptempo number “You’re a Lie” from 2012’s Apocalyptic Love. Perhaps our most iconic living rock musician, Slash looked much the same as he always has: leather pants, shades, curls and that trademark top hat. Just as recognizable was his flame-top Gibson, which rang out all night in that signature tone that has been attempted by millions, but owned by only one guy.

Slash’s inimitable sound was deployed to devastating effect next on the headbanging Appetite anthem “Nightrain,” which couldn’t help but feel like the set’s real kickoff. Undiluted by a couple of decades and more than a few breakups, all of the strategically placed Guns N’ Roses classics in the band’s setlist retain a special live magic, and Slash has definitely surrounded himself with the personnel to pull them off.

Unfair though it may be, it’s impossible not to compare Myles Kennedy to Axl Rose during all of the old Guns material. Very much unlike Rose, Kennedy is a warm and gracious presence onstage, able to command the crowd when necessary with his practiced talent and charisma without ever threatening to steal the spotlight from Slash. More importantly, the experienced rock and roll hand is able to hit all of the inhuman high notes in the classic material effortlessly, without resorting to a cheap Axl imitation. There were no slithering snake-dance moves out of Myles, but God knows it must be tempting at times.

Kennedy sounded strong on the Conspirators’ original stuff, which consisted of hard-rockin’ singalong tunes that would be tailor-made for rock radio, if such a thing existed. The singer showed off a lot of power and range on cuts like “Standing in the Sun” and “Wicked Stone,” and the group’s rhythm section was tight and strong throughout. But naturally, most of the heavy lifting was done by Slash’s soul-piercing guitar tone. There were solos aplenty, with the axeman taking center stage for many of them. Each time he did, a sea of cameraphones seemed to surface from the roiling crowd of excited, older fans.

Slash’s showiest moment of the evening came during the Appetite for Destruction gem “Rocket Queen,” when the guitarist simply cut loose with his full repertoire of moves. From wailing blue notes to dizzying arpeggios, Slash soloed for a full 15 minutes or so, and no one in the packed club went out for a smoke as that Les Paul was unleashed. The crescendo effect was near perfect, punctuated by Kennedy’s reappearance for the song’s brilliantly affecting coda.

Another terrific double-necked solo was to come, as well as a snippet of the National Anthem. But what the crowd went craziest for was Slash’s opening guitar line from “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” a song that should probably be officially considered to replace the National Anthem. While the audience had certainly seemed to enjoy the Conspirators stuff, this was the song that they paid their money to hear, and its performance was pretty flawless.

To bring the show home, the band broke out the Velvet Revolver hit “Slither” to end their set and returned for an encore of “Paradise City.” Slash’s licks still sounded dangerous all these years later, but the atmosphere inside House of Blues was a pure party as die-hard rock fans pumped their fists amid a mighty blast from dual confetti cannon. The whole thing was perhaps a tad too polished and professional, but it’s hard to be cynical when everyone is smiling and singing along to a great tune both on stage and off.

Personal Bias: User of illusions.

The Crowd: White folks with mortgages.

Overheard in the Crowd: “Goddamn, this is gonna be so badass!”

Random Notebook Dump: Sometimes I like to imagine that Slash began as a friendly snowman, brought to life by children who discovered a magic top hat reeking of cigarette smoke.
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Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith