Gunning for Redemption
28 May 2004: Electric Factory Philadelphia
It was the fastest sell-out in the venue’s history, and the show that followed exceeded the hype. Fans who came expecting some sort of Guns N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots retrospective instead got a volatile mixture of new rock straight from the angry souls of musicians restrained far too long by their respective pasts.
It’s been nearly a decade since Slash, Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum were inside the belly of the GNR beast, giving them more than enough time to grow musically out of their past. Formerly known simply as The Project, what has morphed into Velvet Revolver is just what the name suggests—smooth and pleasant one moment, but violent and dangerous the next. Opener “Sucker Train Blues” built from a sparse and simple guitar into a furious rocker. By the time Slash stepped up on the monitor for a crunching solo reminiscent of nothing from his Guns days, the audience was floored. “Do It For the Kids”, another surefire shred piece blasted off with beautiful harmonies and peppered with singer Scott Weiland growling the refrain “Went too fast I’m out of luck and I don’t even give a fuck!”
Weiland is the wildcard in the band, in the midst of another bout of his years old drama, in addition to a marriage down the drain—both of which are touchy subjects but conduits for amazingly unpredictable moods, from the fury of “Illegal I” to the wrenching “Fall to Pieces”. Fresh off the STP train, whose acrimonious dissolution left even more fuel to be burned, Weiland has never looked, sounded or performed better. Using his customary megaphone like the common man uses a screwdriver, and clad in tight and low cut shiny silver pants that Axl couldn’t fit into on his best day, he slithered his spastic serpentine dance non-stop.
The rest of the band didn’t take much of a breather either, with second guitarist Dave Kushner (who looked like a bad ass version of The Edge with wool cap and goatee), taking some of the heat off of Slash, who always does better with an accompanying guitarist anyway. Duff had his punk sneer out, which slipped into a grin throughout the night due to the unrelenting energy thrown back by fans let down all too often in the past by his previous outfit.
In response to swells of “Axl sucks” chants, Slash stepped up to the microphone and asked, “Wasn’t there supposed to be a gig here or something?”—a none too subtle reference to the December 2002 no show by a revamped Guns N’ Roses which spelled the end of any sort of Rose-led comeback tour. “I heard there was supposed to be a show but you guys got screwed?” In a nod to the past, he then pulled out the top hat, and started off “Used to Love Her”, with Weiland virtually drowned out by the audience singing along.
As refreshing and redeeming as the new music was, the night somehow wouldn’t be complete without some sort of acknowledgement to what brought the situation together in the first place. The Guns catalog also lent “It’s So Easy”, (with Weiland even donning a policeman’s hat, looking suspiciously like an Appetite-era Axl) and a sickeningly thunderous “Mr. Brownstone”. The Stone Temple Pilots side yielded “Crackerman” and “Sex Type Thing”, with the latter leaving Slash room to deduce his own version of the solo, which blew the original away.
In the few-thousand capacity Electric Factory, Velvet Revolver held nothing back, leaving the only detriment at times the sound, which was almost too much for the building to hold, teetering on the brink of unintelligible. But come too think of it, that’s just the side of danger that new bands who have something to prove tend to err on. Closing the set with an inspired version of Nirvana’s chugging punk piece “Negative Creep”, the gap had officially been bridged, a new era born, and the project complete.