For the third time in 2012, Steel Panther hit UK shores in a cloud of hairspray, spandex, and inappropriateness. The question was whether this bunch of Californians could fill the bigger space that is the Apollo (after having previously played the smaller Academy) whilst entertaining a crowd that was likely to be somewhat less, ahem, lubricated than the massed crowds of Download?
Support band Falling Red looked like they had just won the lottery! Their blend of sleazy glam fun filled rock n roll was not new to me (I had the pleasure earlier this year on their headline tour) and they were able to easily translate their sound to the much bigger stage that this tour put in front of them. They clearly saw an opportunity and grabbed it with all eight hands! A fantastic match with the Steel Panther crowd the four lads from Cumbria milked their influences and had the capacity crowd hooked – someone had clearly forgotten to tell both the band and the crowd that support band slots are for going to the bar or arriving late! If Falling Red can capitalise on this tour the future is very bright indeed.
When they arrived for their debut show in Britain, Steel Panther easily filled the Download third stage tent to capacity and then some – the crowd trying to see them was fifty deep outside the tent! Sure the press had been filled of tales of debauchery, fun and stupidity (not to mention wigs) but could Michael, Satchel, Lexxi and Stix deliver something more than what Ben Elton used to refer to as “knob gags”? The answer was yes – the first album, “Feel the Steel” shifted units and it was clear to me that what we had here was a group of very talented musicians who had a warped sense of humour and a very full contacts book (guest appearances on the album from Corey Taylor and Justin Hawkins not to mention the queues of stars lining up to join them onstage at their residencies at the House of Blues in the states – just search YouTube for clips if you aren’t aware of the people that they have performed with).
Three years on, however, and a year after the second album was released (or as they put it tonight “Our brand new album – it’s only been out for about 11…..months!), the joke is apparently still not wearing thin. In fact, judging by the hordes of blokes emulating their “..Panther” heroes what the Brits want is more of the lewd, crude and lascivious songs that takes us all back to the heady days of late 80s Hollywood.
Not bothering to avoid any of the clichés (pyros, smoke, video, boob cam, 80s rock sounds, girls on stage…you know the score – well, you do if you’re of a certain age anyway!) they really hit the crowd with everything they had. Michael Starr is mocked for being old, Satchel for being a shallow and vacuous lead guitarist (don’t even go there those of you who know me!), Stix for being a drummer and Lexxi for being….well for being dumb (not the word they use but I don’t think it would translate on a family site like this). Probably the best repeatable comment of the night was when Satchel said intelligent bass players were an oxymoron (like I said – just don’t!) and “Lexxi is the biggest oxymoron of them all!”
Ripping through songs from both records the set was a fantastic length – blending the comedy with the incredibly high quality of musicianship. It is this musicality that those who only see the crude jokes miss – the number of rock musicians who love the band is testament to the fact plus if it was just about the gag there is no way that, in these economically restricted times, they could sell out two tours in the space of a year. You know what? The number of women who were desperate to flash their anatomy, climb on stage and drape themselves around the band suggests that us rock fans get the joke and appreciate it for what it is – a celebration of all that was great (and stupid!) about rock and roll before the plaid shirt and misery guts brigade of grunge came along like the Emperor and his new clothes to spoil our fun. Twenty years later, Steel Panther and their gang of fans are having the last laugh – and it’s a joyful, belly aching laugh best experienced at the show.
Photo credit: Shirlaine Forrest