Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators at The Brick, 5/14/12

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators
With Brand New Sin and Hillbilly Herald
The Brick, Minneapolis
May 14, 2012

Monday night's Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators performance was the much-maligned Brick's first high-profile show since the unmitigated disaster that Jane's Addiction turned out to be for them. 

Slash, like the Constitution or the Statue of Liberty has become part of the fabric of America, for better or worse. Almost everyone can recognize his top-hatted, wild-maned visage immediately. However, like gun violence or electric cars, not everyone is required to like it all the time. Even during the space of two hours your opinion may change. Nobody would have blamed you on Monday had you done so several times.

The two opening songs seemed like they had been built around chunks of Appetite for Destruction-era Guns 'N Roses licks that had been discarded -- and wisely so. They were run-of-the-mill, generally uninspired. For a man who almost single-handedly dumped the heavy metal world on it's ass 25 years ago, it was a bit disappointing, though, truthfully, the first two were better than the song from the first Slash's Snakepit record they played later in the set. Three songs in and "Night Train" from Appetite appeared, highlighting Myles Kennedy's value as essentially the hired-gun version of one W. Axl Rose.

He hit the high notes, had most of the streetwise ferocity, though to be fair, it wasn't (and likely couldn't have) been the same. It was good fun to hear the song live, regardless and it served to underscore something important: Axl may own the name and much of the catalog. While he is a vivid lyricist and a one-of-a-kind frontman full of rage and a volatility as magnetic as it is repulsive, G'nR (or at least the first--and by far best--incarnation of G'nR) rested squarely on Slash's guitar pick.

It's a bit sad to see that Slash's offerings these days have the general appearance of a blurry facsimile of the worst songs from the Use Your Illusion records. Surely they must have meant something, but it was just unclear exactly what it was. None of them stood out from any of the others, and after the band lit the Brick up with a phenomenal version of "Rocket Queen", the rest of the show became a waiting game to see which classic Guns 'N Roses song would get played next and when (it averaged out to be about every fourth or fifth song.)

The overall problem was that the new material seemed to be following a formula: this one is The Epic Ballad, that one is The Live Life By Your Own Rules Growler and so on. Once upon a time, five guys who looked like they'd been sleeping one off the grimiest back alley in West Hollywood stood up, didn't bother dusting themselves off, took a look at that formula, lit it on fire and pitched it into a barrel of kerosene. Appetite was nothing short of a revolution, though Slash must view it as more of a ball and chain -- nobody involved can ever live up to it -- maybe that's why the songs seemed so dialed in, uninspired. Who knows?

The only thing anyone was waiting for by the end of Monday's show was "Paradise City" (they wisely chose not to "cover," in a manner of speaking, "Welcome to the Jungle") and it arrived at the end of the encore along with a blast of confetti that would have made Gregg "Girl Talk" Gillis forest green with envy. However, it wasn't enough. A handful of classic Guns 'N Roses songs that were still as great as they were they day they were recorded and many others that so paled in comparison they didn't deserve to share the same stage. The crowd could have done nearly the same thing by listening to 93X for the evening.

Critic's Bias: This show was far from the train wreck I sort of expected but it was also far from great. Slash and company can and should do better than this. The Brick has fixed many of the problems that people were loudly complaining about, most notably raising the stage at least three feet, though a few still lingered -- the raised stage fixed some sight line problems, though they were still god-awful from upstairs. More revamps are in the works, apparently, but the venue remains far from perfect.

The Crowd: Older, balder and fatter than they were 25 years ago but most still seemed to love Slash as much now as they likely did then.

Random Tidbit: The band inexplicably came out for the encore sans shirts. It was an odd move, but it was also surprising to learn that Slash is ripped like a bodybuilder.

Random Notebook Dump: Myles Kennedy isn't Axl but he'll do and that's more than can be said for almost everyone else on the planet.

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