“The ensuing solo was like lines of fire traced across the strings of the instrument”
Where to begin with Slash? Since his career was launched into super-stardom by the explosive success of Guns N' Roses, the eccentric British-American guitarist (real name Saul Hudson) has burned his way into the annals of musical folklore in words of blazing flame. Hailed as one of the greatest guitar players in history, Slash has co-written some of the Guns N' Roses greatest hits, as well as cultivating a successful solo career, releasing four albums: ‘Slash’, ‘Apocalyptic Love’, ‘World On Fire’ and ‘Living The Dream’, and in 2012 received the ultimate honour of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
So naturally, when I received word that the legend himself would be playing in Madrid, it was an opportunity too tantalising to shirk at.
Touring with his band, Miles Kennedy and the Conspirators (Brent Fritz, Todd Kerns, Frank Sidoris and the eponymous Kennedy) the crowd drawn to the spectacle was impossible to count, in all senses a veritable sea of humanity clustered together in the confines of Madrid's Wizink Center. Already when entering the stadium, the anticipation was evident- one could almost feel the hum and thrill of excitement as great throngs of fans milled around, steadily draining the stock of merchandise heaped on stalls to sell to the masses all to willing to sport their hero's logo on their chest (for 30 euro of course.)
Dominating the stage, an enormous screen, emblazoned with a skull with stars for eyes, a top hat perched on its head adorned with a series of macabrely grinning smiley faces, whilst spotlights speared the audience with a riot of colour. When the band itself came on stage, the ensuing wave of cheers was enough to squeeze out any other iota of sound in the room, though no worries- the thunder of electric guitars made short work of drowning out the frenzied cheers.
The cries of the audience returned with a vengeance however, as the man of the hour himself strode on stage.
The first thing one notices about Slash is how much smaller he looks than expected. The second is of course, his style (you'd have to be blind not to): sporting silvered rings, dark sunglasses and a top hat, Slash looks like Willy Wonka from Hell, an iconic look which instantly sets him out from the other performers. The third and most staggering thing that catches the attention about Slash is his sheer, indisputable, extraordinary talent. Despite being fifty-three years old, the manic energy of the artist is infectious and overwhelming. With every smile at the audience, every raised fist was greeted by a roar of approval that would not have sounded out of place in the Colosseum. That is perhaps the most moving and special experience of watching a man like Slash perform live. Outside of the arena he is like anyone else, on stage he is transformed into a tiny Emperor, power and passion bursting out with every move.
It is one thing to hear Slash play, it is another thing entirely to witness it with your own two eyes. Small wonder he is lauded as one of the greatest guitarists in history, as throughout the entire concert he wrung his instrument dry to the bone, coaxing and teasing out every note and chord with an effortlessness that is awe inspiring to watch. The spotlight could scarcely get enough of him (it was his show after all) and every song brought a fresh wave of raw, unbridled skill and music. From simple electric guitars to a two-necked beast Slash played them all, with the ease that you or I would brush our hair. It is the product of almost 40 years of love and dedication to his craft, and there is something incredibly powerful and outstanding in watching a master at work.
Framed by gargantuan speakers that would have given the walls of Jericho a run for their money, Slash delivered near two hours of what was less a concert, and more a celebration of rock and roll in general. Aided by the fabulous Miles Kennedy and the Conspirators, whose talent cannot be understated, the sense of camaraderie and chemistry between the band members exploding off the stage - especially when in a homage to Freddie Mercury's performance at Live Aid, Kennedy led the audience into chorusing and singing along with him. Awash in LED lights that flashed and whirled and spun from azure to burning crimson, deepest purple and gold Slash and the Conspirators showed that they are no mere pastiches of the Guns N' Roses, creating a veritable roller coaster of emotion. From the heart-pounding ‘Mind Your Manners’ and ‘World On Fire’ to the more poignant ‘My Antidote’, Slash clearly cements his talent as a songwriter as well as a musician. Despite the fans enthusiasm over his solo work, the opening chords of the Guns N' Rose's ‘Nightrain’ were received with particular adoration.
Mid-way through the performance, striding toward centre stage, Slash delivered what was without exaggeration or decoration the most electrifying and impressive guitar solo I have had the pleasure to witness - improvised completely over the course of five minutes. If any of the audience had any misgivings over the guitarist's skill, they were soon blown away completely by the scream of the electric guitar. Fingers moving so fast the silver rings were quite literally blurs, the ensuing solo was like lines of fire traced across the strings of the instrument, the sound enough to send the spine tingling and delivering a sensation as if your heart was about to burst against its rib-cage. Faster, and faster, a crescendo that caused a sheen of sweat to break out on my own forehead, as all the while on stage Slash's hands moved like quicksilver. It was a captivating, even trance-like experience, and when it was over the resulting roars and screams of approval from the audience were the final nail in the coffin for my poor eardrums.
In an age where mediocre, uninspired, bland and at times just downright awful music rules the charts with an iron fist, seeing Slash live is almost a Renaissance for the spirit of rock and roll. And the jaw-dropping spectacle of seeing a 53 year old man on stage, a man who fought substance abuse and heroin addiction to reclaim a well-deserved spot in the ranks or great musicians, absolutely obliterate and captivate an audience of adoring fans with what was quite simply magic played on guitar strings, just goes to show once and for all, that in the words of Jeff Lynne: Rock and Roll Is King.
Pablo L, Year 12