Slash, Myles Kennedy, and the Conspirators play with fire

slash pressSlash, Myles Kennedy, and the Conspirators’ “World on Fire” tour rolled through Queen Elizabeth Theatre this past Monday. Although the show, which landed on Thanksgiving, was their second stint in Vancouver in less than a year-and-a-half, both the band and their fans were more than ready for round two.

With hard rock so hot it could have melted pavement, UK trio Raven Eye earned a “THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME!!” from the crowd only two songs into their set, and once more at the end during a decent-sized standing ovation. One particular highlight (their final song) called to mind Audioslave’s heavy first hit-single “Cochise”, complete with a tremolo to start which fhupped like spinning chopper blades. “We thought, ‘This was going to be seated; it’s going to be calm!'” singer and guitarist Oli Brown said in surprise, acknowledging how off the mark they were.

Raven Eye found out just how off the mark they when Slash and his official band, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, took the stage. Slash and co. kicked off in loud, hard fashion with “You’re a Lie” and then barreled forth with something more familiar: “Nightrain”, a huge surprise for anyone who didn’t expect to hear Guns N’ Roses songs.

Myles Kennedy, whose primary gig is fronting post-grunge outfit Alter Bridge, showed off his remarkable vocal range on “Halo”. Bassist and hometown boy Todd Kerns joined him in a soaring harmony on “Wicked Stone”. Meanwhile, Slash unleashed the best solo of the night up to that point, posted centre stage in his trademark top hat and shades, with one leg propped on an amp and his guitar pointed skyward, running his fingers up and down the entire neck of his guitar.

If there were any doubts about Kerns’s abilities as a stand-alone singer, he squashed them on “Doctor Alibi”. Kennedy disappeared for a breather while the pristine-throated Kerns further showed off his own range by filling Axl Rose’s part on the biggest Guns classic of all, “Welcome To the Jungle”. “That motherfucker can sing!” Kennedy exclaimed as he resurfaced.

Kennedy graciously introduced the rest of the band after “Back from Cali”: drummer Brent Fitz, guitarist Frank Sidoris. Kennedy plugged Kerns’s Vancouver roots, saying, “He’s made a lot of great music in this town!”

Following the snarling, beastly “Beneath the Savage Sun”, a song aimed at elephant-poaching, Slash unveiled the double-neck guitar for “Civil War”. Here, after setting a blaze with passionate solos and cinematically dramatic climaxes, Slash drifted into an all-too-brief lick of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” to end the song.

Despite the heavy themes found on their latest album, last fall’s World on Fire, which include the aforementioned topics, leading deceptive double-lives, disillusionment, and addiction, Slash maintains that it’s a happy record. The themes certainly never spoiled the crowd’s fun – or the band’s.

Of course, Slash, Kennedy, and the Conspirators could always rely on the classics to pep up the crowd. Slash played at his most soulful on “Rocket Queen”. As he repeatedly edged towards resolution, the rest of the band stood by and kept the rhythm moving. Even in the dark, every body could be seen turned towards stage left, fixated on Slash killing it in the corner.

An hour-and-a-half into the show, fatigue began setting in over some sections of the increasingly fidgety audience, especially as the band slowed the tempo with “Bent To Fly”. But the wise rock vets knew exactly what to do: they sent a revitalizing jolt of excitement through the crowd with the unmistakable opening notes of “Sweet Child o’ Mine”.

The band capped off their two-hour set with a single-song encore: “Paradise City”. A show that long doesn’t need an encore, but the stage-y move was sure as hell welcomed even if just to complete the consummate rock show experience. That’s not to even mention the explosions of confetti that blasted out from both sides of the stage as the song climaxed. Shreds of paper floated down as the music climbed higher and higher, against flashing white lights and smoke that steadily billowed from the points of expulsion.

“Will it ever be this good again?” Kennedy asks on World on Fire‘s title-track. Given Slash’s consistency over the past 30 years, and the band’s instant chemistry the first time they walked into a room together, I think the answer is yes. Oh, hell yes.

View photos from the show here.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu