Aug 20, 2012
Kids, in the summer of 2005 I had just come back to New Zealand and had arrived in the unfamiliar city of Christchurch to start a new phase of my life – university. I had made the careful decision to enrol at the University of Canterbury for a number of important reasons:
- They sent me an acceptance letter first.
- I had heard that there was a Velvet Revolver concert happening there.
- Oh, apparently the engineering school was pretty good.
- I had heard that there was a Velvet Revolver concert happening there.
We all know by now how much of a Slash freak I was, and having just spent a decade living in Malaysia where no good rock bands ever went, I was determined to get to my first kick-ass rock show. It was scheduled for roughly a week after I was due to arrive, so things needed to be in place before I even hit the ground. Thus began…
At this point I hadn’t left home yet, didn’t have a NZ bank account, no access to a credit card, and I didn’t think my parents would understand this whole rock show business, so I couldn’t really ask them for help. What to do?
I emailed a childhood friend who was amazing enough to help me purchase one golden ticket to the Velvet Revolver gig, such that when I arrived in Christchurch I’d be ready to go. Sorted!
I was all set. I left the uni hostel, got a cab, and got a ride to what was in those days called the Westpac Arena, I think. The line wasn’t very long, and I was so fucking excited it didn’t matter anyway. This was in the days after Dimebag had just been murdered onstage (RIP), so security was tight. The funny thing was, they gave me a big pat down, and then let me through… without checking my ticket!! Doh.
What. An. Amazing. Show. VR’s first album Contraband remains one of my main influences, and hearing it out loud, live, was just… bliss. I’d never been to a real gig before, and I was right in there in the crowd, about 5 or 6 people from the front, and it was just beautiful madness. It was so hot and humid in there with the full house that I remember jumping up just to get to the layer of cool air above the crowd for a breather.
Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the gig seeing as I didn’t own a camera back then, but it was just magical seeing Slash running back and forth on the stage, Duff with his bass slung low keeping the rhythm like a bad cop swinging a billy club, and Matt Sorum finally sporting a hairdo that didn’t come from the 80s. Scott Weiland was on form vocally and put on an engaging performance in the slippery androgynous and yet steel edged way that only he can.
I remember leaving the arena, and it was a rainy, cold night. I didn’t know anyone, and I was, simply put, alone. For some godforsaken reason there were no cabs around, so I had to ring one and wait desperately for it to show up, not quite knowing what I’d do in that alien city if the one cab company I knew the number for didn’t send a cab out.
But none of that mattered, because…. well, because. That first gig is something that sticks with you, and it’s something that I’ll always remember like it was yesterday.
Speaking of yesterday…
Well, technically yesterday since I’m writing this at 1.26am all hopped up on adrenaline… I just went to see Slash live, again! He’s touring with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators in support of his new album, Apocalyptic Love, which we actually gave away recently to one lucky person as part of the review of the Marshall AFD100 head.
I digress. In an odd sort of symmetry (and I’m a big fan of Milan Kundera’s life symmetry concept), I had decided to go down to the Christchurch gig instead of the Auckland one, and it turned out that it was being held… at the exact same place that I’d first seen Velvet Revolver, a whole 7 years ago. A lot has changed about the city since the earthquakes, but it just seemed like a deja vu moment that I was back there, and in that area, basically nothing had changed except the name of the arena.
Von Voin Wtf?
So the opener was this local band called Von Voin Strum… I think. I’d never heard of them but apparently they’re big enough to be opening for Slash. Well, that was a bad choice. What happens when you get an indie band with a poser frontman who’s copped every Robert Plant move in the book and combined it with indie freakout stylez, who then proceeds to headbang to a rather tame breakdown?
A rather unlikeable band, that’s what. To be fair, I kinda liked what the rest of the band were doing, but I just wanted to punch the singer every time he tossed his hair and twirled around. However, the guitar players got some niiice Tele and Strat tones through a pair of Fender Hot Rod Deluxes. And the single most amazing thing about this band was this – the motherfucking SIDE. MULLET.
Anyway, they played, they were tight but I didn’t really like the music. Bring on the Slash!
Just awesome. The gear geek in me spied 3 x Marshall AFD100 full stacks, as well as an Ampeg stack and a rack full of “Wizard” amps for the new touring rhythm guitarist. I’ll have to find out more about it later. I also spotted this young lady a few rows ahead, wearing her love for Slash… on her studded hotpants. Did I say the side mullet was the best thing ever? I clearly lied.
Back to the gig. No, really.
First, Myles Kennedy appeared like a pied piper of rock.
Then the man we’d all been waiting for. Mr Saul Hudson, aka… SLASH!!!! He was certainly on form as he buzzed between one side of the stage to the other, looking like he hadn’t slowed down a tick since he was a lean, mean 20-something trying to scratch out a living on the Sunset Strip. Myles and Slash together look like old buddies, and the dynamic was amazing. Myles’s voice was possibly the best I’ve ever heard it, and it looks like he’s finally coming into his own and becoming more comfortable with the back catalogue instead of feeling like an awkward guest vocalist.
They ran through a decent number of songs from the new record, as well as some from his first solo record. Off the new record, my favourite song would have to be Anastasia, the almost neo-classical riff pounding away into a great vocal line by Myles. In true rock star fashion, Slash broke a string just as he went into the solo – unfazed, he ripped the string off and proceeded to burn through the rest of the solo using what he had. Awesome stuff. They also did some of my favourites from the last album – Back from Cali, performed to perfection by Myles, as well as Ghost, the track that has the best “Slash and Izzy” vibe (well.. it IS Slash and Izzy) since the GNR era.
They dived into the GNR classics as well, although disappointingly they didn’t do Mr Brownstone. Classics like My Michelle, You’re Crazy, Sweet Child O Mine and Paradise City were well represented.
Disappointingly they didn’t do much Velvet Revolver, although they did Slither, which made me happy. They also did Fall to Pieces, which is one of my favourite songs in the world, ever. It made me really happy that I was basically within arms reach of the barrier, watching Myles sing his heart out on that amazing power ballad, originally conceived from deep within the twisted psyche of Mr. S. Weiland.
We were also graced with a number of instrumental solos from Slash – they started off with a bit of a boring blue shuffle, but eventually he transitioned into his iconic solo piece – the Godfather theme. Sublime. With Paradise City, the night ended with a bang, and I was pretty impressed with ending up so close to the front, and the fact that I’d survived it! In another fit of symmetry, it was a rainy night as we left… and people were complaining about how there were no taxis.
Here are a couple more pics:
I want to hear from you guys – what was your first gig, and what are your strongest recollections about it? I’ll see you in the comments section – Samurai out!!
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