Tuesday 6th November 2012
Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, UK
Reviews by Jason Guest; Photography by Samantha Knight
With the ghouls and goblins of Halloween returned to the catacombs for another year, there is still one ghost that remains on this earthly plain: the 80s hair metal sex pest. Packing more headbands than Rambo on a holiday weekend in Vietnam and more spandex than the British Olympics team, never before have there been so many sightings of the effeminately coiffured phantom on Wolverhampton's windy autumnal streets. But if they’re not ghosts, it can mean only one of two things. Either the good ship Wolverhampton has weighed its anchor in the time-space continuum and sailed back across time and moored itself on the Sunset Strip in the early 80s or – worse – Steel Panther are in town. Given the 80s glam rock blasting out of the nearby pubs and the amount of alcohol spilling out onto the streets, I fear it’s the latter.
Inside the Civic, Falling Red's rock 'n roll riffs and infectious choruses soon sets the crowd off, their homage to all things hair metal was packed with enough energy and between-song-banter to put an amphetamine-charged evangelist to shame. Blasting out song after R-n’-R-charged song with the sleaze in full flow, Falling Red’s cover of the Kiss classic 'Love Gun' further cements the relationship between band and ever-swelling crowd. What glam/sleaze show would be complete without the mandatory ballad making an appearance? And so it appears. One or two lighters find themselves thrust skyward amongst the sea of mobile phones to wave in the breeze of faux sentimentality. It's as if Axl's love juice is raining down on this chilly November eve. Though Falling Red, a band that aren’t that much different from the countless other bands that churn this kind of stuff out, offer little in the way of originality, they put on a good show packed with plenty of catchy choruses and sing-along tunes. And though they’ve got their banter down, it’s a shame that the same can't be said for Northener Rozey’s American accent that he seems to be attempting... Hello Cleveland!
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With Falling Red getting the party started, the mood lifts ever higher as rock classics flow from the PA, the crowd singing along as if the bands were on stage. This crowd is expecting a show and expecting to have a good time. And they are making it happen – with or without tonight’s headliners. The amount of flying pint glasses (thankfully plastic!) is outnumbered by the number of inflated condoms hovering in the air. With such a lubricant atmosphere in the air, who better than Steel Panther to whip out a bunch of juvenile songs about sex?
The strains of ‘The Future’ begin. Amid a flurry of gratuitous arpeggios and runs up and down the neck, plank-wanker Satchel appears to huge applause. The black curtain that concealed the stage set drops, the band appear, ‘Supersonic Sex Machine’ kicks in, and the party is underway. Resplendent in spandex, tight-fitting and ripped t-shirts, and spectacular flamboyance, Steel Panther already have the crowd in their sweaty palms. Two songs in and the Steel Panther show proper begins, their between-song comedy banter lasting longer than the two songs they’ve already played. But we don’t care because it’s hilarious. In the 80s, the British were telling nob gags like they were going out of fashion and so the unending spurt of lewd and lascivious humour that Steel Panther peddle is right up our rudimentary. Innuendo and euphemism is way too high brow for these guys. Yep, it’s the smutty, the unseemly, and the inappropriate for us all, yet in our post-Saville Britain, the jokes about under-age sex seem to be a little too far, the laughter feeling a little restrained when compared with the collective guffaws prompted by the torrent of nob and boob jokes and the unending comparisons with washed-up 80s hair metal icons – Starr looking like a fat David Lee Roth or a thin Vince Neil.
The atmosphere in the room is vibrant and sing-alongs are in abundance. ‘Fat Girl’, ‘Asian Hooker’, ‘Just Like Tiger Woods’, ‘Let Me Cum In’ and ‘If You Really Really Love Me’ sees Starr almost handing the mic over to the crowd as they sing them all word-for-word, gleefully revelling in the capacity crowd’s performance. Satchel’s ten minute guitar solo – yes, ten minutes! Never let it be said that Steel Panther aren’t extravagant – bestows upon us snippets from Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and a host of metal greats as well as the ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song from ‘The Sound Of Music’. Such hilarity! While the band’s songs and their comedy turns are the reasons this audience is here, a large part of a Steel Panther show is down to the crowd. With many a girlfriend appearing atop their boyfriend’s shoulders to bare their boobs, only in a Wolverhampton crowd would you see a big guy pop up to do the same, his moobs drawing as much, if not more, applause as his female exhibitionist counterparts. Later in the set, one by one, these women were invited up on stage to dance with their boobs out while Steel Panther play ‘That’s What Girls Are For’. That the song is about domestic servitude with domestic violence being “humorously” referenced appears to slip by this troupe of topless temptresses. It makes you wonder how many in the crowd spit and how many swallow Steel Panther’s misogynistic mantras. And so, when Satchel drags a ten year-old kid up on stage to introduce ‘Death To All But Metal’, the crowd goes wild with delight. And even though he looks uncertain as to what he should do with them, he stays to dance on the girl-filled stage. The indoctrination has begun…
Where hair metal used to draw – and prey upon – a lot of women, at this show, women seem to be comparably thin on the ground. Having seen their show in LA in 2010, it was much the same there. Here in Wolves, all that was missing was the Botox bunch that haunt the LA nights on Sunset Strip. All that's left for hair metal to do is to take the piss out of itself. And so, balls out, Steel Panther sit astride its moist cadaver, milking its sagging silicone implants for all the artificial life-giving milk they can muster. When ‘Feel The Steel’ arrived, Steel Panther appeared to be as much masters of irony as they were masters of entertainment. With ‘Balls Of Steel’, though still entertaining, Steel Panther’s juices started showed signs of drying up. As a live act however, they give the audience exactly what they want. In recreating the pseudo-Bacchanalian heyday of 80s hair metal in front of their tumescent crowds, Steel Panther’s juvenile and nostalgic titter-fest just gets bigger…
Set List: The Future, Supersonic Sex Machine, Tomorrow Night, Fat Girl (Thar She Blows), Asian Hooker, Just Like Tiger Woods, Let Me Cum In, If You Really Really Love Me, Guitar Solo, Turn Out The Lights, I Like Drugs, It Won’t Suck Itself, Girl From Oklahoma, That’s What Girls Are For, Party All Day (Fuck All Night), Death To All But Metal. Encore: Community Property, Eyes Of A Panther, Seventeen Girls In A Row
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Steel Panther at the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, UK, 6th November 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Samantha Knight - www.metal-discovery.com