w/ Blue Ruin
The Powerstation, Auckland
Sunday 26 June
Like similar acts Tenacious D and The Beards, Steel Panther are comprised of some very talented musicians who choose to centre their band on parody. By channeling late 1980’s LA rock giants like Mötley Crüe, Guns n Roses and Skid Row, Steel Panther bring the excess of hair metal forward thirty years, with a generous dosage of tongue in [between] cheek.
It’s all-out assault on decency, with every song guaranteed to offend. If it’s sexual and lewd, than you’re likely to find a Steel Panther song on the topic. I dare say it’s an assault on the environment as well, with the amount of hairspray the band uses surely responsible for a large part of our ozone depleting.
Arriving at The Powerstation on a Sunday evening, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I have seen some of my favourite bands play this venue [Rise Against, Biffy Clyro, Jimmy Eat World], so I know it works well as a tightly packed intimate setting. The rest of the crowd, however, seemed to have a fair idea of what they were in for. Glancing around I saw countless fishnet tights, neon pink outfits, and luscious long locks flowing from underneath bandannas …. And that was just the men!
Kiwi rockers Blue Ruin kicked off night with their own blend of rock and punk. They recently opened for Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie, and the Runaways influence is obvious on the all-girl five-piece. In fact, they’ve had a good run of slots opening for various acts recently, including Buckcherry and The Misfits, both of whom they covered during tonight’s set. They did OK and looked the part, but it was pretty apparent that they need a few more band practices to tighten up their act. Blue haired front woman Jessie Booth appears set to fill Jennie Skulander’s boots if she keeps up what she is doing, especially with that roar of hers.
In between sets one wild-eyed individual approached my friend and I to chat. He had long curly hair, a thick black beard and glasses, giving him a white nerdy Jesus look. I think he decided to chat to the two of us because we both had beards as well. He was saying about how much he loved Steel Panther, and how he has been unsuccessfully trying to convince his son to listen to them as well. My [Swedish] friend has seen Steel Panther three times already, and was telling the guy that he was in for a fun night. Upon hearing my friend’s Swedish accent, the guy mistook him for American and began professing his undying love for Bernie Sanders to us, despite my friend explaining that he isn’t actually American. After a few minutes of hearing all about the virtues of the Bern, the guy produced a small joint and began to offer it around.
Kicking off the night with the panther growls that introduce song “Eye Of The Panther”, Steel Panther showed us what we were in for. Hot off an Australian tour with Black Stone Cherry, the band was in fine form. They sounded seriously good. Parody act or not, they knew how to play. They had the image down-pat too. Everything the band wore was lycra and leopard print, and they all had long flowing hair and bandannas.
Bass player Lexi Foxx puts the glam component in glam rock, preening himself in front of the mirror, spraying hairspray and applying lip gloss between most songs. Aerosmith have the song “Dude Looks Like A Lady”, and although I thought it was about Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil, it could very well have been written about Foxx instead. Foxx was on the receiving end of many of the band’s jokes, being portrayed as the “retarded bass player”.
Frontman Michael Starr was the “slightly fatter David Lee Roth”, or “slightly skinnier Vince Neil”, depending which way you looked at it. Either way, he could sing just as well. They band told of how he had received vocal lessons from Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, and Starr even came onstage dressed like Halford during one song, rocking aviator sunglasses and a bright red sparkly sequined coat.
Guitarist Satchel provided one of the highlights of the night with a ripping extended guitar solo that included a medley with nods to classic rock bands like Van Halen, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Guns n Roses, Iron Maiden and even a song from The Sound of Music made it in there.
Drummer Stixx Zadinia had little to say throughout the night, but he had complete control over his monstrous red DW kit. Throughout the set he would play around by throwing drumsticks to the band and crew, then catching them when thrown back and playing on without missing a beat.
The band’s real strength lay in how well they could improvise. There was plenty of stage banter, and although not all of it could have been original, much of it was. They interacted with the crowd, cracked jokes and brought girls up onstage to dance around.
One such girl was Asian, so got the dubious honour of being the centre of attention for the song “Asian Hooker”. Later in the night two scantily clad twins wearing studded bras got onstage and the band composed a song for them, each member ad-libbing couplets while Satchel strummed his acoustic guitar. It was a bit concerning seeing two sisters so desperate for attention that they would hook up with each other onstage, and even the band seemed slightly uncomfortable with it. Soon enough the stage was full, with girls being pulled up left, right and centre. It was undeniably crude, but that is all you would expect from Steel Panther. And that’s where the genius of their joke lies, because although they go all-out to shock with their content, it is hardly any different to the “serious” that they are spoofing, making the act believable.
At the end of the band started to throw items into the crowd: guitar picks, water bottles, empty hair spray canisters etc… One drumstick was thrown very close to where I was standing so I put my hand out to catch it, but it was just out of reach. The person who caught it raced to the back of our venue so I turned to see who it was, and lo and behold, it was none other than our Sanders-loving stoner friend from earlier in the night. Needless to say he was completely ecstatic with his prize.
Steel Panther put on an incredibly entertaining performance. It wasn’t just a concert, it was a show. A funny, absurd, inappropriate and improvised rock show. And it was awesome.
Death to all but metal indeed.