Steel Panther/Wayward Sons – Belfast, Limelight 1 – 19 January 2018 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Friday, 26 January 2018 04:40

How many cheap, tacky, tasteless jokes about cocks, fannies and fucking can you cram into 90 minutes of what is supposed to be a heavy metal show? Apparently, as many as you want when you’re Steel fucking Panther. Resisting the urge to make a similarly inane crack (oops) about this being my virginal experience (damn) of SP in the flesh, it was often hard to distinguish if we were watching a rock gig interspersed with stand-up comedy routines or a comedy show punctuated by some (admittedly half decent) tunes when the LA parody artists made their debut appearance in this particular corner of the Über Kingdom of Rock ‘n’f’n’ Roll… But, we’ll come back to that discourse anon…

 

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Tasked with warming up what turns out to be a rabid crowd – a healthy proportion of whom had deliberately turned up early – are a new band with plenty of experience: and that is not a contradiction in terms, as the pedigree of the various members of Wayward Sons is indisputable, covering as it does such luminaries as Chrome Molly, Gun, Spear Of Destiny, Joe Elliott’s Down N Outz, Treason Kings and, of course, Little Angels. And this experience shows through right from the off, as not only do the collective members – and not least frontman Toby Jepson – know how to work both a stage and a crowd, but do so in the most expertly professional manner possible.

 

There is a very heavy bottom end to the sound mix, and not in a good way, as both Nic Wastell’s bass and Dave Kemp’s keyboards are all but lost in the morass, while Sam Wood’s superb guitarmanship struggles to poke through the thick whomp which is vibrating the venue’s Victorian walls. Nevertheless, the band are enjoying themselves and the challenge before them, with Jepson grinning from ear to ear and holding his Flying V aloft as he declares that no one is going to get out of here ‘Alive’, before awakening the ‘Ghost’ of their debut album’s title track.

 

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Conscious of the time factor – or, rather, lack thereof, especially as proceedings are already running more than 15 minutes behind schedule, with a strict curfew in force – Jepson keeps the needless chat to a minimum (pity the headliners didn’t do the same, but we’ll come to that) and concentrates on the music. It turn, this demonstrates how quickly the Sons have become a taut and highly effective rock ‘n’ roll machine, with a line in great songs, which in turn are delivered with aplomb, energy and, above all, a massive sense of enjoyment, which easily and quickly transfers itself to the slowly growing crowd, winning them many new fans in the process (although it will be interesting to see how many make the trek to Ahoghill when the Sons return to this little corner of the Über Kingdom of Rock ‘n’ Roll come April). And the dedication of ‘Something Wrong’ to Fast Eddie Clark, who had died earlier in the week, was a lovely touch – especially given the fact that the last time Jepson performed on this very stage was fronting Fastway.

 

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It may seem hard to believe that the last time Steel Panther visited these here islands they were selling out 12,000 capacity arenas but this time are limiting themselves to clubs a tiny fraction of that size – which goes a long way towards explaining how, when this show was announced, it sold out in something like six minutes flat. Whatever the reason for the downsizing, the decision not only serves to bring the band much closer to their fans built also helps to expose some of their frailties, especially in relation to the tiredness of many of their “routines”, which are very carefully choreographed and downright crude. But, then, that’s the idea, isn’t it? It’s supposed to be base, bottom-denominator and tacky – and, at the end of the day, it’s all good, dirty fun… The only problem is that, by and large, the joke, like its protagonists’ hairlines, has grown somewhat thin during the advancing years since it was first told.

 

Having said that, they – and especially Satchel – definitely know how to play to the crowd. After the double opening whammy of ‘Supersonic Sex Machine’ and ‘Goin’ In The Back Door’, the guitarist and singer Michael Starr launch into the first of their double act routines – and, like a comedic curate’s egg, it’s funny in parts! While Satchel “reveals” that they’ve just won an award (“for one of the top 75 metal bands to visit Belfast this month”) and delivers his carefully scripted single-entendre laden one-liners, Lexxi plays to their parodic glam rock role, by flouncing his hair and applying lip gloss, with the help of a suitably tacky vanity mirror.

 

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By this stage, we’re 20 minutes into the set, and so far the stand-up comedy routine has lasted longer than the music – but, it’s soon back to that, with a roof-raising rendition of one of the songs that established their reputation for tongue-in-cheek sleaziness, ‘Asian Hooker’, which is funnier than an episode of ‘Derry Girls’. Now, at this stage, it is beholden to me to admit (although there never really has been any doubting otherwise, given their collective experience on the LA scene) that these Panther lads are actually bloody great musicians, and that is perhaps the only reason they are able to pull off what they do – they can actually support the pastiche with ability. Starr has a superb voice, with a great range and a rich tonality, while Satchel could quite easily see off the majority of the competition in the sort of awards competitions he jokes about: this is no clearer than during his solo spot, delivered from behind Stix’ kit, the guitarist keeping the rhythm with the kick drum and delivering a fiery homage to some of the genre’s greats, not least Eddie Van Halen, who he would give a run for his money any day of the week…

 

Outside of some of the fretboard trickery, there is nothing subtle or discreet about what Steel Panther do, especially in the lyric department: it’s crude and it’s lewd, innuendo-free cum-in-your-face school toilet humour – but, dammit, that is what most of the audience are here for, and so it goes down a storm! For cynical old farts like me, the joke may indeed have lost some, if not most, of its lustre; but, like the majority of those who go to shows such as this, I came to be entertained – and, indeed, I was, as popping my Steel Panther cherry didn’t leave a bitter taste in my mouth… although it didn’t exactly leave me with an appetite for seconds, either.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen/ Über Rock. You can view our full gallery of photographs HERE.

 

The UK leg of Steel Panther’s ‘Lower The Bar’ tour rolls into the Hammersmith Apollo tonight (Friday) and finishes at the O2 Academy in Bristol tomorrow.

 

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