There are not too many guitarists with zero vocal ability who can release solo albums and tour under their own name successfully.
Carlos Santana is one. Jeff Beck is another.
Slash, who brought back his “We’re All Gonna Die U.S. Tour” to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s Music Box on Friday night, is the most modern version of the guitar hero who has headlining ability.
Known best for his days as the lead fretman for Guns N’ Roses, the guitarist, with his iconic long, frizzy black hair, mirrored sunglasses and leather top hat, has proved for nearly three decades that he can survive no matter who his frontman is, whether it’s Axl Rose from GNR or Scott Weiland in Velvet Revolver.
For this tour, he enlisted the singing skills of Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy, who filled the vocal spot nicely, but the crowd was there to see Slash, and he didn’t disappoint.
Slash’s latest eponymous album features Kennedy and an array of guest artists that include Chris Cornell, Fergie, Ozzy Osbourne, Kid Rock, Iggy Pop and others, following Santana’s recipe for success.
It seems to have worked. “Slash” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the rock chart, impressive for any successful band, let alone a guitarist with a bunch hired guns.
The night was full of new songs — probably too many, in fact — but Slash constructed an awesome setlist that weaved in and out of solo material with GNR classics and Velvet Revolver goodies.
The band opened with the new track “Ghost,” a great rocker with a catchy guitar hook reminiscent of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
After offering the underrated Slash’s Snakepit ditty “Mean Bone,” the crowd erupted for the GNR hit “Nightrain,” in which Kennedy proved he was up for the task to hit Axl’s high notes and unusual delivery. Kennedy would also impress on other GNR staples such as “Civil War,” “Rocket Queen,” “Sweet Child” and the encores “My Michelle” and “Paradise City,” which served as sweet closers for a loud, raucous evening.
Kennedy, in fact, nailed all of the GNR covers, reminding the audience how poorly Weiland sang them. He also handled the Velvet Revolver songs well, particularly “Slither,” “Sucker Train Blues” and “Do It For the Kids,” even though the supporting vocals were noticeably weak.
Like the “Slash” album, the new offerings Friday night were a mixed bag. Aside from “Ghost,” the two best new songs were the ones Kennedy sang on the album; the ballsy, bluesy “Back from Cali” and the retro “Starlight,” which would have been a smash in the ’80s.
The ballad “I Hold On” and the silly punk rocker “We’re All Gonna Die” could have been easily cut from the setlist, while “Nothing to Say” was worthwhile so that Slash could show off his ability to handle heavy metal brilliantly.
Slash seems more confident and creative than ever, laying down extended solos and clearly having more fun with this band than he did with Velvet Revolver.
Another sold-out crowd never sat for the 19-song, two-hour set, despite many of them not ever hearing a single one of the eight new songs before Friday night.
That’s because no matter how good or mediocre a song may be, watching Slash’s fingers fly across the frets and listening to the sweet sounds he makes — even in a “Godfather” theme guitar solo — is about as entertaining as that instrument gets.
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