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Concert review: Steel Panther at the House of Blues in Cleveland

Steel Panther performing at the House of Blues in Cleveland on May 29.
Steel Panther performing at the House of Blues in Cleveland on May 29.
Jason Bodak

Steel Panther at the House of Blues in Cleveland

Rating:
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Since the only way it seems Columbus can get Steel Panther to come here is to book them for a blink-and-you-miss-it 30-minute set at Rock On The Range, I took a road trip to Cleveland on Thursday to see them perform a headlining show at the House of Blues. Yes, that is a long way to go for a concert (and I had to work the next day too), but it was well worth the commute, the traffic and the lack of sleep. Even though Steel Panther got famous by parodying the hair metal genre of the 1980s, they are, ironically, the real deal. Those who can’t get past the obscene lyrics and all the talk of banging groupies and doing massive amounts of drugs might not appreciate a Steel Panther concert, but those who get the joke understand that behind the schlocky image is a band that is as good – if not better than any of the hair bands they lampoon.

Indeed, guitarist Satchel (real name Russ Parrish) is a bona fide virtuoso, having recorded with Paul Gilbert as well as Rob Halford’s criminally underrated metal juggernaut Fight. Vocalist Michael Starr (real name Ralph Saenz) is a former member of LA Guns and has recorded with AFI and even appeared in the movie 'Rock Star.' These guys may pretend to be oafish, sex-starved clowns, but musically they’re exceptionally talented and they most definitely deliver the goods in concert. They do tend to talk way too much between songs, however; if they would cut down on the comedy bits, they could easily fit another two or three – possibly even four – songs into the set.

Now that they have three albums out (this tour is in support of their magnificent new opus, 'All You Can Eat'), they have more than enough material to choose from. All three are actually much better albums than what the vast majority of the bands they’re spoofing ever produced. But a lot of the fan base probably expects the band to live up to the glam metal caricatures they portray, and to their credit, all four members stayed in character for the entire concert. Bassist Lexxi Foxx was constantly looking at himself in a mirror and applying hairspray and lip gloss while Satchel and Starr boasted of all the sex they’ve been getting on the road. Their act elicited several chuckles, but at times it seemed to go on a bit too long. The shenanigans culminated with the band bringing several women from the audience up on stage to dance to the single “17 Girls in a Row” as well as the next two songs.

Still, this was a rock show, and when the guys weren’t cracking jokes, they consistently brought the house down. Starr is one of the best rock vocalists around and he impressed mightily, unleashing several Dickinson-worthy screams. Satchel makes most of his peers look like hacks in comparison, while Foxx and drummer Stix Zadinia laid down a concrete-solid foundation. Foxx may be the butt of many of the jokes cracked onstage, but his playing, especially on “Gloryhole” is phenomenal. Plus he’s from Cleveland, a fact that was mentioned quite frequently, always accompanied by lots of cheering from the audience.

Bottom line, Steel Panther is in the same club as bands like KISS, Misfits, Gwar and The Darkness: ridiculed by the stuffy, self-important critics because of their image and their sound, but loved by their fans because they write great songs and put on phenomenal shows. If you don’t like to be entertained at a concert, well, Counting Crows will be playing the LC Pavilion in about six weeks.

Setlist:
P***ywhipped
Tomorrow Night
Asian Hooker
Just Like Tiger Woods
Eyes of a Panther
Gangbang at the Old Folks Home
If I Was the King
Turn Out the Lights
Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World
Stripper Girl (Snippet)
Girl From Oklahoma
The Burden of Being Wonderful
17 Girls in a Row
Gloryhole
Death to All but Metal
Community Property
Party All Day (F**k All Night)