In another dimension I would have been standing outside Brixton Academy. This would have been a Sonic Youth review. Guns N’ Roses‘ Chinese Democracy would be in the Billboard Top 20. But there are anomalies which disrupt the space/time continuum and upset the flow of things to come. Take Velvet Revolver for instance: Two years ago they were little more than a rumour, while Axl Rose and Five Blokes toured a bunch of Guns N’ Roses covers (and what an odd night at the London Arena that was). In less time than it takes to say ‘Welcome to the Jungle’, Velvet Revolver cranked out an album which flew off the shelves, and nestled warmly in the Billboard Top 20. With the announcement of their debut UK tour, one Sonic Youth ticket was promptly flogged.
It’s a difficult evening for the usually reliable Backyard Babies, who are doing their best against a meagre allocation of the PA. Their unenviable support slot also poses several dilemmas: A new album which has yet to see the light of day in the UK; a fantastic back catalogue, but new songs which need road testing, not to mention 3,000 people waiting for you to get off. But problems don’t deter this outfit, and once the likes of Bye Bye Badman and The Clash air, things really pick up. But it’s the balls-to-the-floor swagger of Brand New Hate which tips the balance for the Swedes.
Six minutes later than scheduled, the house lights dimmed and a banner splashed with “Rock & Fucking’ Roll” was hoisted. An almighty roar erupted, followed by Duff McKagan who stepped onto his monitor and fiddled the intro to Sucker Train Blues. As the guitars kicked in, strobes flared and a Ziggy Stardust-thin sex god appeared from nowhere. Scott Weiland looks the fucking part: Gestapo hat, mirror tinted aviators, tight leather and a megaphone. It’s an all-the-more sweeter middle finger to the critics who dismissed him as a mere Eddie Vedder clone.
Slash – well what can you say about Slash? With guitar perched on knee, he’s doing the guitar god thing from the November Rain video. Classic.
The assault Velvet Revolver release is astounding. No less than six crunching songs splinter like a dirty bomb before easing up. Hell, by the third one (Spectacle), Weiland is topless and dripping wet. But by god he’s on form. Shaking those hips and doing a certain snake dance, you can’t wriggle your attention from Weiland as he snipes, swaggers, shifts and sleazes like a sadist crusader. Not with arrogance. Not with inebriation. Not with a strand of novelty. It painted a pretty depressing state of affairs for blighty’s front men. Liam Gallagher has had his day, leaving us with the quaint prospect of Borrells, Dohertys, Hawkins and, erm…struggling here. Ok, so maybe Bobby Gillespie. Mind you, Gillespie and Weiland have the benefit of experience.
“We’re not fucking Stone Temple Pilots! We’re not fucking Guns N’ Roses!” the singer spits. Not that the quintet are ambivalent to delving into their back catalogues. Guns’ Used To Love her was one of two breathers through the 90 minute set. The patchy PA did the Pilots’ Sex Type Thing little justice. But it swiftly returned as It’s So Easy sent the venue – literally – bananas; giving Slash and Duff extra warrant to maraud the vast stage like it was 1987 (and boy did it look good).
Ending with a thrash through Nirvana‘s Negative Creep was odd, considering some of the juggernauts from Contraband which lay dormant. Nonetheless, it was better than perhaps anyone here tonight could have hoped. Hands down, this band are the best live ticket money can buy. It also makes the ongoing Darkness joke look pitiful. As for anyone feeling jaded by the new wave, they need look no further. Rock & Fucking Roll is still (thankfully) very much alive.