The first time I bumped
into Steel Panther was in 2000 in LA. Enuff'z'Nuff were playing the Viper Room
on a Monday, supporting resident headliners Metal Shop... "Who the hell
are they?", I wondered. When the band finally took stage, I was totally
Starrstruck: not only these dudes could sing, play and dance "Nothing but
a good time" better than Bret Michaels, they were actually a lot funnier!
I needed to know more. Less than a year later, I was interviewing Ralph Saenz
(aka Michael Starr), one of the nicest and most professional people I met in
this business, and developing an addiction to Viper Room's Mondays.
I came back to London telling the tale of this fabulous comedy/cover band, wondering why nobody thought of taking to the UK a show that could sell out regularly every week on Sunset Strip. In 2004 I found out they had changed their name to Metal Skool and recorded an original album, "Hole Patrol", with gems like "Big boobs" and "Stripper girl" and they were now selling out the Roxy every Monday. And yes, I went to LA again and went to the Roxy and again I couldn't stop laughing. Still, no international tours in view.
It's 2009, and I get excited
news of the mighty Steel Panther playing in London: who the hell are they? Not
too impressed by the name (very Spinal Tap, isn't it?), I forget all about it
until I bump into their "Behind the Music" video on MySpace: it's
Metal Shop/Skool, new name, new album, and finally a sold out gig in the UK,
plus a slot at Download!
The show is everything I expected and more. The queue outside is massive, it was supposed to be an intimate gig for 100 people, but it sold out so quick they had to move it to a 800 capacity venue and it sold out again. Most of their UK fans only listened to the album (many and many times judging from the singalong), so their comedy routine here is brand new and taking the audience by storm. The chicks arguments between Michael and Satchel, Lexxi and his mirror, the hair solo (my personal highlight!), girls pulled on stage for the most acclaimed "Community Property" and the spontaneous, embarrassing but just too hilarious moment when they realise they pulled a guy ("Dude, it's a dude!"), you just can't stop laughing. There's time to play most of the album and a few covers (Motley Crue and David Lee Roth) as encore, with the epic hit "Death to all but Metal". But this audience would stay here all night if they decided to play each and every 80's hair metal track they know.
Steel Panther is pure genius. There was a whole bunch of bands in the 80's playing stuff like "Stripper girl": they took themselves too seriously and wasn't too long before they ended up serving skinny latte at Starbucks. The Panther, maybe after watching "Decline of Western Civilisation II" a few times, realised how much comedy you could find between the lines in "The Dirt", and after well over 10 years of weekly resident shows on Sunset Strip, I wouldn't be surprised if they could buy a few Starbucks of their own...
If any of you feels offended
by Steel Panther, join the PC brigade or see a shrink, you hypocrites, 'cause
songs like "Community Property", "Turn out the lights" or
"Girl from Oklahoma" are far more honest than "I'll be there
for you", especially in the magic world of rock'n'roll.
Only one small disappointment: spoilt by the likes of Steven Tyler casually joining Michael & Co on stage, and considering this show was just after Download's weekend, I expected the anticipated "special guests" to be "a bit more special" than one album wonder Justin Hawkins (remember the Darkness?), as much as I enjoyed "I believe in a thing called love". However, apparently there are further collaboration plans with Steel Panther and I hear news that he also joined Spinal Tap on stage recently, so good luck to him with his rock comedy venture, hope it works out better than Hot Leg.
And talking about good news, I've also heard Steel Panther will be back in the UK at the end of September... Get your tickets as soon as they come in, 'cause (unless you regularly follow "Rock of Love") you're unlikely to laugh so much watching an 80's rock show for as long as you live.
by Cristina Massei
Visit the Steel Panther Website