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Slash and The Conspirators crush it at Hard Rock, AP Awards

Slash and The Conspirators concert at Hard Rock Northfield, July 20, 2014


Happy birthday, Slash!

Slash and The Conspirators killed it at the Hard Rock before the guitarist's Monday appearance at the AP Awards in Cleveland.
Peter M. Roche
Slash received the AP Awards' Guitar Legend at Rock Hall on Monday.
Peter M. Roche

The guitarist who gave the world some of the most memorable riffs of the last thirty years—like the jagged descending riff from “Welcome to the Jungle” and the bright, pedal-pointed intro lick to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (voted #1 by Total Guitar magazine readers in 2004)—spent last weekend with his buddies in Cleveland, rocking and rolling as only he can.

On Sunday night the former Guns ‘n’ Roses six-stringer hypnotized a packed Hard Rock Rocksino in Northfield with his band, The Conspirators. But the iconic guitarist delayed his Ohio exit to attend the first-ever AP Awards on Monday at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. There, Aerosmith’s Joe Perry presented him with top honors for “Guitar Legend.”

Slash and The Conspirators recently wrapped a tour with the “Walk This Way” superstars (but we’re guessing Slash and Perry go way back).

Cleveland-based counterculture magazine Alternative Press marked its thirtieth anniversary with the July 21st awards show and evening concert at Voinovich Park on E. 4th, which drew several thousand rabid rock fans—and an impressive roster of musical celebrities new and old.

Speaking of old, Slash—born Saul Hudson in Hampstead, London—turns 49 today, July 23rd.

But the man who jump-started L.A.’s most notorious band some thirty years ago with Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, and Steven Adler has always looked younger than his chronological age. Perhaps his curly locks, ever-present aviator sunglasses, and top hat help offset the ravages of time, or at least bolster the illusion that he just isn’t subject to the same laws of biology and physics as the rest of us.

Maybe Slash’s passion for music keeps his motor running. He never really slowed down after Guns ‘n’ Roses’ dissolution some two decades ago. Instead, he dropped a couple solo albums, formed super-group Velvet Revolver (with McKagan and Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots), guested on albums by other artists, and assembled his own crack unit of hard-rocking ruffians.

Slash’s latest effort with The Conspirators—featuring Myles Kennedy (of Alter Bridge) on vocals—drops later this summer.

World on Fire will arrive courtesy the band’s Dik Hayd (pronounced like “decayed”) Records, and finds our denim and leather-clad guitar hero tearing it up on some of the most potent material in his prolific career.

The boys unveiled several of the disc’s new tunes for the Hard Rock crowd, but they also seasoned their 100-minute set with tunes from other chapters in Slash history, with some songs going all the way back to 1987.

The audience ate it up.

And why wouldn’t they? Slash has been giving listeners an Appetite for Destruction ever since Geffen released that iconic G ‘n’ R album, back when Ronald Reagan was president and bubblegum pop stars like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus were still howling in their Huggies, if they were born yet at all.

Rocksino ticketholders were treated to the requisite Slash visuals: The guitarist bounded onstage in his trademark hat and shades for opener “Hard & Fast,” sporting a day or two of razor stubble and nose-ring, and wielding the first of many of his Slash signature Les Paul guitars (he cycled through gold and tobacco-colored instruments as needed).
Dressed comfortably “street chic” in tailor-made black jeans and a Dracula themed T-shirt (whose short sleeves highlighted his bulging biceps), the then still 48-year old duck-walked and scissor-kicked in his sneakers, a lot like the Eddie Van Halen of old.

Stacks of Marshall amps—topped with decorative pewter skulls, fuzzy toys, and action figures—back-lined the group, comprising a miniature musical Wall of Jericho whose lone sentry—drummer Brent Fitz (Vince Neil, Alice Cooper) looked on from his rostrum (when not pummeling his kit, hair flailing wildly).

“Nightrain” gave spectators an early sampling of old-school fare. “Standing in the Rain,” “Back from Cali,” and “Apocalyptic Love” all reached into Slash’ recent solo past, while “Stone Blind” reconnected listeners to present-day material.

Harkening from Guns ‘n’ Roses’ 1991 smash Use Your Illusions II, “You Could Be Mine” saw the auburn-haired Kennedy siphoning Axl’s spirited original delivery in his own way. The 44-year old tenor from Spokane, Washington possesses some truly powerful pipes (justifying a stint singing with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page in the late 2000’s), and he demonstrated his vocal versatility on “Not For Me” and “30 Years to Life.”

Kennedy’s also a capable guitarist, but designated rhythm player Frank Sideris provided the distorted, crackling chords needed whenever Slash unleashed one of his crisp, biting solos. Bassist Todd Kerns (formerly of Static in Stereo) pinned the bottom end, his sturdy grooves undulating below Fitz’ percussive thunder on “No More Heroes” and “Starlight.” Kerns also handled some lead vocals on “Doctor Alibi,” originally sung by Motorhead’s Lemmy on 2010’s eponymous Slash CD.

The title track from the forthcoming Conspirators album made for an energetic mid-set reboot (not that these sweaty songsters lacked any momentum). “Anastasia” and “You’re a Lie” (both from 2012’s Apocalyptic Love) added to a dizzying crescendo that culminated with the rollicking “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” The grand finale—a take on Velvet Revolver’s “Slither” (from 2004’s Contraband)—referenced yet another incendiary instance Slash’s storied career.

The two encore selections effectively bridged the gap between old and new: The barnstorming “By the Sword” kept fists pumping, while G ‘n’ R classic “Paradise City” brought Slash and his minions full circle.

Baltimore quintet Charm City Devils opened with a handful of cuts from their first two efforts, Let’s Rock ‘n’ Roll (2009) and Sins (2012), winding up the Rocksino audience for the headliner. The band—signed to Nikki Sixx’s Eleven Seven label in 2009—also premiered a track from its forthcoming album, Battles.

Singer John Allen oozed charisma, whether belting out on “Devil is a Woman” and “True Love (Hell Yeah)” or connecting with the crowd vis-à-vis his loose, unpretentious mid-song banter. Guitarists Victor Karrera and Nick Kay constituted a formidable tag-team, buzz-sawing their six strings on either side of the stage (and occasionally posing together on Allen’s elevated riser). Bearded bassist Anthony Arambula thundered over (and under) drummer Jason Heiser’s beats, adding to the group’s defiant, AC/DC-inspired sound attack.

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