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Slash & Myles Kennedy - Live in North America: House of Blues, Hollywood CA [Album]

Slash & Myles Kennedy - Live in North America: House of Blues, Hollywood CA [Album]

Dik Hayd International/Abbey Road Events

Review 7826 Views
Last Edited by: Jack Stovin March 23rd, 2012.

Unlike the scattergun approach of the Axl-led Guns N’ Roses of the present day, former lead guitarist and all-round musical icon Slash has tried to keep the legacy of his past work alive by recording and touring with a variety of musical legends. His most recent album, Slash R & Fn’ R, was voted #3 in the Altsounds Top 50 Albums Of 2010 poll, and has gone on to become one of his most celebrated works, going gold in Australia and the accompanying tour supporting the album selling out around the globe, with numerous album bundles released worldwide in a variety of different types. The 2 stand-out editions for British fans are undoubtedly the Classic Rock Slashpack that arrived a full month before the album was released in the UK, (which included the CD in limited edition hardback book style packaging (with bonus track), a rare 132 page biographical magazine written by the peerless Classic Rock that spanned the man’s career not available anywhere else, a fetching pin badge and sew-on patch, and a huge wall poster), and the Deluxe Edition released just before Christmas that includes the original album, a bonus disc of 13 tracks including B-sides, demos, the 3-track acoustic session done for XFM, a DVD with a documentary focusing on the sessions that went into the making of the album, a track-by-track interview with Slash, and live performances of selected tracks and a nice little Slash guitar plec featuring the sexeh artwork on the box's cover by Fear & Loathing… illustrator supremo Ralph Steadman.

The idea to record a live gig to CD and then sell it outside the venue as the punters are leaving isn’t a new idea, but it’s certainly become a popular one: the news of the début recording - of Slash’s July 3rd 2010 show in Manchester - was made official with a P.R. statement that explained that ‘Abbey Road Live will be there to capture the performance and have it mixed and mastered on-the-fly, specifically for CD - not to be confused with a “board” mix, which usually just involves plugging into the house sound console and taking their mix’. Each top quality, limited edition double album was sold for £20 ($30) online via the official website, with 1,200 copies pressed in total and only 350 being actually sold at the end of the show itself. Unsurprisingly, it sold out in a flash, and became a highly sought-after collector’s item. The blistering show saw Slash and his touring band (consisting of Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy handling lead vocals, rhythm guitarist Bobby Schneck, bassist Todd Kerns and Brent Fitz on drums) performing not only songs from Slash R & Fn’ R, but also tracks originally released by Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver and Slash’s Snakepit, along with a searing cover of Led Zeppelin’s thumping “Communication Breakdown,” and a sparkling rendition of “Speak Softly Love,” also known as “Love Theme from The Godfather”.

Originally meant as the only official live release of the tour, its runaway success made it the first in a series of live albums recorded: the rarity of the Manchester show meant that its collectability skyrocketed, fetching high prices on eBay, with fans calling for more gigs to be released in the same fashion as a ‘fuck you’ to those capitalizing on the success of the concert by buying copies and jacking up the price, and stopping the real followers from owning a physical keepsake of their night out. As a stop-gap, the recordings of the show were made available for streaming on YouTube, answering the clamouring fans who demanded the chance to get a copy of the gig that they had JUST seen themselves. Australian tour dates were also recorded and offered up for sale next (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane), as well as promising that live CD sets would be available for much of the rest of the American and Canadian tour. This album, the 6th October 2010 show, was the second night in Hollywood, and the last date of 2010, with Slash playing on his home turf on the Sunset Strip (echoing his infancy as a guitarist with Gn’R at their infamous shows at the Whiskey nearby over 20 years ago), as this photo from his website proudly attests.

Kick-starting with the gorgeous circular guitar motif of album-opener “Ghost,” Myles takes up the vocals originally sung by Ian Astbury of The Cult on the studio version with obvious aplomb. It’s an elegantly attractive axe-ballet that expands, with the finger-tapping intro being among one of the best things Slash has ever played on since the opening strum of 1987 classic “Paradise City”. A pumping live version from the band’s appearance at Rock Am Ring in Germany this summer can be seen here:

An ear-splitting “Mean Bone” (from the second Slash’s Snakepit album Ain’t Life Grand) dissolves into the all too familiar galloping bassline of “Nightrain” as it pumps through the crowd, lunging for the jugular as Kennedy’s vocals wrap around the William Bruce Rose-penned lyrics: ‘I’m on the nightrain / and I’m lookin’ for some / I’m on the night-train / so’s I can leave this slum’. His rousing voice mixes with loops of guitar-shred that fill the densely-packed House of Blues, and it’s the first of many Gn’R-tinged treats that are waiting in store tonight. A throbbing performance filmed by the BBC’s Glastonbury 2010 coverage can be seen here:

A leering cover of Velvet Revolver’s “Sucker Train Blues” (from the Contraband album) leads into album highlight “Back From Cali”. It’s a song featuring chunky chordage, with a chorus about the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll in America’s sunny West Coast: ‘you’ll have to carry me back from Cali / I’m tired and I’m broken and I lost my way / you’ll have to carry me back to where I belong / you’ll have to carry me back from Cali / I don’t want money, I don’t need no fame / you’ll have to carry me back to where I belong’. The world-weary lyrics continue into the bridge, with the narrator’s appetite for self-destruction coming at a price as he warily warns us of ‘the Angel city where the Devil’s play’:

Slash is obviously enjoying himself, chucking out soothing spirals of guitar-riffs effortlessly before starting up 1991’s Use Your Illusion II epic track “Civil War”. The now-classic intro weaves itself into the audience’s collected psyche as they inevitably pipe up the whistling part of the track in warm melodic unison, and Myles exerts so much emotion and force into the song’s bridge as he intones ‘D’you wear a black armband / when they shot the man / who said “Peace could last forever”? / And in my first memories / they shot Kennedy / I went numb when I learned to see’. Building to a thrashful fury, Slash treats the crowd to a lulling outro sprinkled with the supercharged opening bars of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” guitar wah-wah. A beautiful performance captured by Australia’s MTV Classic Launch can be seen here:

Its stiletto-sharp circuitous guitar line is as hypnotising as ever, followed by another piece of Gn’R perfection, Appetite for Destruction’s euphoric closer “Rocket Queen”. Hearing Myles handling lines written by Axl such as ‘I’ve seen everything imaginable pass before these eyes / I’ve had everything that’s tangible, honey, you’d be surprised! / I’m a sexual innuendo in this burned out paradise / if you turn me on to anything, you better turn me on tonight’ with such palpable relish is a joy to behold. A live version from Japan’s Summer Sonic rock festival can be viewed here:

The startling 1-2 punch of VR’s “Fall to Pieces” (containing a mournful yet strong vocal from Myles) and Motörhead frontman Lemmy joining the stage for a leery take on “Dr. Alibi” then gives way to the raucous “Nothing to Say,” originally sung on the album by M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold fame. Meaty run-throughs of both “We’re All Gonna Die” and “Always on the Run” are tossed out (neither having been played in the U.K. or Europe!), before the pulsing lunge of Todd Kearns’ bass starts to rumble through the crowd, and Slash’s neat guitar arpeggio from “Starlight” begins. It’s another album (and concert) stand-out, and even better here in the live arena.

In a recent interview, Slash recounted when he was putting this album together that ‘Myles is a godsend. When I was at the tail end of making the record, I had two songs left over that were two of my favorite pieces of music. Throughout the making of the record, I could not figure out who should sing them. The album was actually being mixed, and I realized I hadn’t gotten vocals on those two songs’. He went on to say that he’d never met Myles before but ‘knew he was a good singer though. I just took a chance and called him to see what would happen… we struck up a really good relationship from the get-go’. This friendship blossomed in no time, with Slash chuckling ‘I thought “Well, since I’m asking favors of him one after the other, let’s see if he wants to do this tour” I had a feeling that he could sing any of the songs I chose to do on the road. That turned out to be the case’. An amazingly soulful acoustic rendition of “Starlight” (that clearly shows the comradeship and affectionate interplay between the 2 musicians) was filmed for Australia’s Max Sessions and can be seen here:

It’s the end of this first CD, but man oh man there are still more gems to come. The second disc starts off with a dazzling take on the instrumental “Speak Softly Love,” infused with the lean quality of a guitar ninja that proves a 10-minute centerpiece for the top-hatted one to guitar the shit out of his Gibson, as if we need any more evidence of his divinely electrifying virtuosity.

In John Robertson’s fascinating work The Art & Music of John Lennon, he writes that ‘love songs are always a form of imaginary letter’; “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is itself the result of a love letter written by Axl to then-girlfriend Erin Everly (daughter of Don Everly of The Everly Brothers) who went on to marry Rose for an entire month. Myles here treats the song with a heartfelt respect, achieving the largesse it so richly deserves. A superlative acoustic live appearance from the aforementioned Max Sessions can be seen here, again showing the pair’s magical musical bond and how they’ve tapped into something very rare with their vibrant interlocking potency:

Myles Kennedy fans can also catch his solo acoustic performance of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” from Bofest 2009 that was captured by a lucky fan here (and a quick search will also yield results to watch an edifying cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as well):

Myles tears through a pristine rendition of the Alter Bridge track “Rise Today” before a down and dirty take of Velvet Revolver’s “Slither”. Then it’s the rapid-fire rip-tide of “By the Sword” (originally sang on the album by Wolfmother’s Andrew Stockdale) before Slash mentions that, throughout the tour, the band have been dropping in Guns N’ Roses tracks at random. Last night’s Hollywood date saw the appearance of “My Michelle”, and tonight it’s the turn of the awe-inspiring, paranoia-infested “Welcome to the Jungle”. In fact, being that “Welcome to the Jungle” has only been recorded on this specific date, this Hollywood House of Blues album has become increasingly rare, as frenzied Guns N’ Roses completists search fervently for this hallowed item. The set ends with a totemic “Paradise City” played in an orgasmic 10 minute finale; it’s a totally spectacular sonic feat. A version of the track - sung by, of all people, Fergie - is available on the bonus disc of the Deluxe Edition of the Slash R & Fn’ R album, and proves once and for all that her mouth would be the perfect receptacle for a hand grenade. Myles, however, is easily up to the challenge. A live version from Rock Am Ring can be seen here:

When you listen to a live concert album, it needs to accomplish a couple of things. If you were at the gig itself, then it needs to remind you of how great the concert was in the first place, and bring all of those special memories flooding back. If you weren’t there in person, then its job is to recreate the magic that you missed out on; the key thing it needs to do is to make you wish you had been there. Depending on which category the listener falls into, this album will comfortably achieve both. After the first listen, I was ready to listen to it again... and again. By the time I sat down to write this review, all I could think of was how I wished I had been in the audience for this show. An undoubted victory.

Links:Photo Credit:
Angela Weiss

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