Saturday night offered the chance to see one of rock’s legendary guitarists, Slash, at Mystic Lake Hotel and Casino. But it was not just the famed Guns N’ Roses (GNR) guitarist. It was Slash, featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators (SMKC), who proved to the sold-out crowd in Prior Lake that they are more than a one man show with backing musicians; they are tight, cohesive, and talented band.
As you know, Slash rejoined GNR in 2016, and their Not in This Lifetime… Tour (one of the top grossing tours ever) ran 2016 through 2018 and still has a dozen more US shows (plus a couple in Mexico) scheduled for this fall. With GNR having a three month break in the tour last fall, these busy musicians couldn’t resist getting the band back together for a brief Sept-Oct 2018 tour to show off SMKC’s third studio album, Living the Dream. With both GNR and Kennedy’s band (Alter Bridge) both on break until October, SMKC embarked on an ambitious world tour of their own. Beginning in January 2019, they first jetted to Asia, then Australia, Europe, Scandinavia, South America, back to Europe for several June festivals, and even a show in Tel Aviv. They returned home in mid-July but not to kick back and relax. Instead they picked up where they left off in North America last fall, hitting the West Coast, Canada, and now the Midwest.
Saturday’s show was indoors at the Mystic Lake Showroom rather than at their outdoor Amphitheatre, which was used the night before for the O.A.R. show. While I’ve enjoyed many outdoor summer shows at Mystic, I was happy to be in the cushy, air-conditioned, 2,000 seat auditorium after sweating it out at Ribfest last weekend. Plus, sound quality at any outdoor show can’t compare to what they have dialed in so perfectly at Mystic Lake’s Showroom. This was a rare show with no opening act, but promoters gave fans plenty of warning to arrive early, to get through security and to their seats before the show would begin promptly at 8pm. It did, with Slash taking the stage with his trademark look: large top hat capping his long black curls, sunglasses, and tonight a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers t-shirt. Myles Kennedy ran out wearing the contagious smile he is so well known for, along with his four-octave rock voice.
Usually I enjoy learning about up-and-coming bands in the form of supporting acts, but as long as SMKC played a lengthy show, tonight I was OK with no openers. I’m pretty sure diehard Slash fans felt the same way, especially since that left plenty of evening to enjoy the attached Casino. Thankfully, the band dished out 21 songs and over two hours of music in a spirited performance. The night included bunches of songs from all three SMKC albums plus the Slash album that preceded them. Also, one GNR song for a reminder of Slash’s other life.
A total of seven songs tonight were from 2018’s Living the Dream, including the up-tempo opener, “The Call of the Wild”. After a trio from 2012’s Apocalyptic Love, concluding with the title track, they went back to “Back From Cali”, one of the songs Kennedy sang on Slash’s self-titled 2010 album. This song triggered the greatest reaction to this point for the well-known collaboration album featuring various lead singers, including the likes of Ian Astbury, Ozzy Osbourne, Fergie, Chris Cornell, Andrew Stockdale, Adam Levine, Lemmy Kilmister, Kid Rock, M. Shadows, Rocco Deluca, Iggy Pop, and last but not least, Myles Kennedy. While the variety of guest vocalists produced an incredibly interesting and wide-ranging album, Kennedy became the permanent voice of SMKC following a successful stint on tour with Slash. He is a tremendous frontman, with his wide-ranging, powerful voice combined with his genuineness and people skills. Kennedy made a point during the show to point and wave at as many fans as he could and he has the ability to make each fan feel like he is looking directly at each of them.
How about three more from the new album, starting with the pounding drum/guitar rhythm of “My Antidote” and it’s later screaming guitar solo, makes it one of top tracks. Between “Serve You Right” and “Boulevard of Broken Hearts”, Kennedy finally took a few seconds to speak to the crowd after the band had rattled off seven-straight songs without a mutter. “You guys are feeling good,” the lead singer concluded. “We could tell, right from the first song.”
After “Shadow Life”, the first tonight from World On Fire (2014), Kennedy introduced bassist, Todd Kerns, who would take over lead vocals on a pair of songs from that 2010 guest-vocalist album to give the primary singer a much-needed break. The long-haired Kerns is the self-ordained cheerleader of the band, constantly pumping up the crowd to Kennedy’s amusement. He wore a black t-shirt proudly displaying the five band members’ names on the front, “Slash & Miles & Fitzy & Frankie & Dammit (his own nickname)”. His stint as lead singer brought some variety and energy to the show as he first handled “We’re All Going to Die”, which Iggy Pop sang on the album. It was fun to see Slash team up to sing the chorus face-to-face with Kerns. Next was “Doctor Alibi”, after which he asked the house to remember Lemmy from Motorhead, whose originally sang this Slash-track.
The guitar icon donned his doubleneck for “The One You Loved Is Gone”, as Kennedy returned to take back the mic. During the ballad from the new album, the 54-year-old guitarist played his first extended solo of the evening, taking us on a tour of that 6 and 12-string dual threat instrument for over three minutes. But that was just foreplay for his more satisfying six-minute indulgence on the next song, “Wicked Stone”. While some guitar solos could put you to sleep, fans quivered to every nuance Slash inserted for the building and building, but never climaxing, experience. “Mind Your Manners” and then “Driving Rain” concluded songs tonight from the new album. If you’ve never seen it, make sure to watch this well-done, puppet-acted video for “Driving Rain”.
Kennedy handled Andrew Stockdale’s vocals on “By the Sword” from Slash before we heard the one GNR song they are now currently playing on tour, “Nightrain.” There is no denying, that as much as you want to celebrate the success of Slash’s solo and SMKC work, this GNR classic was one of the highlights of the show. For those of us growing up with Guns N’ Roses, the memories came flooding back with Kennedy handling Axl Rose’s vocals with ease. Fans sang along loudly and there were even a few Axl-dressers in the crowd rocking out. But this tour is not about GNR, so Slash next sat beside Kennedy for “Starlight”, the other track from Slash that he guest-sang. While so vastly different than that Appetite for Destruction track, this sit-down number similarly beckoned fans to sing along to the beautiful, “Oh Starlight …..”, but let Kennedy hit the upper octaves by himself. For me, this usurped “Nightrain” in the special moment category of the night.
“Prior Lake, did you have fun tonight?” Kennedy asked before introducing “this young man”, supporting guitarist Frankie Sidoris, and then drummer Brent Fitz. “Fitzy”, wearing a Winnipeg Jets shirt, took a brief drum solo before Kennedy introduced, “Without further ado, the one, the only, Slash!” After the ongoing loud applause for the deserving Hall-of-Famer, Slash actually spoke for the first time tonight. Yes, the strong silent one stepped to the mic and said, “I want to take this moment to introduce this handsome motherf…er, Myles Kennedy.”
The energetic anthem, “World on Fire”, was their final song of the main set, but Slash treated us to one more guitar spotlight, front and center, as Kennedy found a drum to beat beside Fitz until returning to conclude in style. Their big hit, “Anastasia”, was the lone encore, but what it was exactly what we wanted. Slash started it out with the subtle guitar intro before abruptly switching to the song’s familiar scaling guitar work. Kennedy joined in for the well-known radio hit. After this tremendous capper to the show, the band lined up for a stage bow and tossed guitar picks and drumsticks to excited fans. Next, it’s Chicago’s Lollapalooza to continue the final seven dates of the tour concluding at the Hard Rock in Orlando on August 13th. If you can, catch one of these remaining shows to not only see this legendary guitarist, but one helluva band. While already beaming from the great show, seeing a “mini Slash”, a youngster dressed in a black curly wig and hat, with his mom and sister on my walk through the casino proved how this rock legend is adored.
The Call of the Wild / Halo / Standing in the Sun / Apocalyptic Love / Back from Cali / My Antidote / Serve You Right / Boulevard of Broken Hearts / Shadow Life / We’re All Gonna Die / Doctor Alibi / The One You Loved Is Gone / Wicked Stone / Mind Your Manners / Driving Rain / By the Sword / Nightrain / Starlight / You’re a Lie / World on Fire. Encore: Anastasia.