Velvet Revolver Live @ Hammersmith Apollo, London (UK) - 26th January 2005

Velvet Revolver are late. It was ok for about half an hour, the Team America trailers were still funny. However, it is beginning to feel like mind conditioning and, lets face it, the inside of Trey Parker's head is funny for about ten minutes. In the space of eleven minutes the guffaws have lessened to a titter and, along with the other four thousand, I am beginning to get a headache even before the show has started. You will go and see this film! You will buy all the related merchandise! You will eat the new McDonalds Team America burger!

Just as things look like they may get ugly a roadie walks on to the stage and places Slash's trademark topper on his amp. He then walks off again leaving the crowd near to hysteria at the sight of a slightly battered top hat! Welcome to the world of Velvet Revolver, a world where even their clothes can ignite a riot. Three members of probably the greatest hard rock band of all time fronted by the most unlikely of the comeback kids. Robert Downey Jr's evil twin and he's, dressed like a camped-up SS officer. Scott Weiland has just hit the stage and what a front man he is!

The effect is akin to a boxer being sucker punched. You think you are in control and suddenly it hits you square on the chin - straight out of nowhere. "Lets Rawk and F**kin' Roll Mutha Fukers!" It's as predicable as tits on a pole dancer and just as hard to ignore. I'm astonished how good everyone is looking. This is GnR/STP for god sake. At least three of these cowboys shouldn't even be alive, never mind sporting the kind of physiques you see on the endless conveyor belt of Tupak wanna-be's. The set looks set to follow the album track for track. They open in an extravaganza of Vegas kitsch with Sucker Train Blues, followed by the wonderfully twisted, 'Do it for the kids'. Predictably by now Big Machine follows sounding almost like NiN. The pace is relentless.

The thing with Velvet Revolver is that you simply cannot imagine them having an off night. It transpires later that the delay in appearing was due to drummer, Matt Sorum deciding he needed a lie-in at his Dublin hotel. He had finally surfaced long after the rest of the band had left for London. Feeling suitable refreshed he hired a private jet at a cost of five thousand pounds and arrived at the venue around fifteen minutes before they walked on to the stage. VR do this because they love doing it and it comes over in every aspect of what they do. What is also very apparent is that this is one shit-hot band in its own right. Forget the GnR legacy, forget the Stone Temple Pilots connection, if these songs had landed on a A&R mans desk as an unknown band, they would still be this big. What VR seem to have proved is that they do not need to live on the legend of who they once were or who they played with. Sure, plenty of rock fans will turn up at shows to say they have stood in the presence of rock greatness but you get the feeling that, to VR, the whole subject is of no importance and more than a little passé. The set continues with Superhuman and Set Me Free, augmented by the kind of lush production you associate with stadium shows. The audience now gets the second of three different backdrops. This really is rock and roll Hollywood.

The performance is exactly what you would expect. Weiland is sex on a stick, thrusting his dick and shaking his ass into every face within range. The man has no shame and the audience loves it. The GnR contingent does exactly what we know they do. The look great, sound awesome and make it look like falling off a log. The Bastards!

By the time Weiland has bounced and gyrated his way through Falling to Pieces, Slither, and loving the Alien, Slash has changed guitar about seven times. Duff has seemingly smoked a whole pack of Marlboros and the juggernaut is heading for the buffers. It's a glorious crash that sees yet another new illuminated VR backdrop slowly ascend from somewhere and dazzle the crowd in a final over the top Vegas style fuck-you.

If there was criticism to be leveled here tonight it was why they felt the need to encore with a Gunners song followed by a Stone Temple Pilots track. It was most definitely a case of gilding the lily. VR's own output is equal to anything either band have ever done so why dilute it?

As I walked out into the night I removed my stick-on press pass and read the slogan across the front. V-R. Censorship is very American. How right they are and how important it is that they recognize the need to keep it on a tight leash. Maybe by the next time I see them they might also have seen the dangers of too much corporate sponsorship. However, at this precise moment in rock and roll history they are arguably the greatest live band in the world. Time to go and get myself a delicious Team America burger…did I really just say that?

by Alex Carling

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