It’s almost like someone carefully planned that Steel Panther would hit these shores in January. A week or so until payday, bills from Christmas landing on the doormat, it is bloody freezing, and the country has ground to a halt. Judging by the warnings from the met office, the police, and the transport minister, venturing out after a certain time will result in apocalyptic scenarios rivalling ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. The crowd lining up outside the O2 Academy obviously didn’t get the message, as although it’s sub-zero, there’s a vast amount of naked flesh on display… and that’s just the male of the species. Lycra leggings, mullet wigs, crop tops, and beer bellies can only mean one thing; Steel Panther are in town, and for a few hours, the January blues are forgotten about. The added bonus of two much-touted up and coming UK rock acts is a master stroke, and the net result is a sold out venue.
The job of kicking off the evening fell to Wayward Sons, the new band featuring Toby Jepson, one of the most respected artists in the British rock scene over the last few decades. Jepson and Thunder being the two mainstays from the first coming of a new wave of British classic rock back in the late 80’s early 90’s. Ironic then that years later, Jepson and his fellow Wayward Sons have produced a debut album that gives the youngsters a run for their money. Much heavier than his most well known band, Little Angels, Wayward Sons play a infectious brand of hard rock that has the crowd bouncing from the off. They’ve also brought in some of their own fans as after the intro tape of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ by Johnny Cash fades into opening track ‘Alive’. Heads are bobbing, arms are in the air, and more importantly, people are singing along. Jepson is sporting a rather nifty looking Flying V as he takes over the role of ring leader, cajoling those unfamiliar with Wayward Sons into clapping along and making some noise. The band are incredible too. Fellow guitarist Sam Wood looks every inch a guitar god in the making, and Nic Wastell plays his bass slung low like every punk wannabe from the good old days, difference being, he can play. Drummer Phil Martini is crucial to the sound as he puts in an almighty shift at the back, driving the likes of ‘Ghost’ and ‘Until The End’ along at a fair old pace. Clem Burke from Blondie is one of my favourite drummers, and I see a lot of Burke in this fella. Check out his intro to ‘Killing Time’… smashing, great, nice, super. Jepson is more experienced than most at this lark, and looks at home in front of a huge crowd. He knows how to work them, and he knows that a lot of those in tonight won’t be familiar with his previous work. His voice shows no sign of wear and tear from the last few decades, if anything it sounds stronger, hitting the high notes on ‘Killing Time’ with ease. After a short 30 minute set, Jepson announces that the band will be back on a headlining tour in April. With gems like ‘Crush’ and ‘Be Still’, you would be a fool to miss them.
Any band that takes to the stage using the theme tune to the classic TV show ‘Superstars’ is fine by me. Laying down a marker that says they are ‘superstars’ in waiting, or a tongue in cheek response to those that hail them as ‘the next big thing’? You decide. Either way, it did raise a wry smile from those who remember Kevin Keegan tumbling from his bike back in the ‘70’s, none of that health & safety malarkey back in them days. After the band take to the stage, the larger than life figure of frontman Nathan James ambles on. It’s hard to miss him really, he’s the one with a mane of long blonde hair and wearing the glittering jacket. Shy and retiring are two words never to be used when describing Nathan James. Frontmen should be confident by nature, but James takes it to the next level. Thankfully, he has the voice to match his persona. He knows that Inglorious are onto something, and the response from the crowd shows they agree. Possibly the best reception that I’ve witnessed a support band receive in quite some time. Set wise, it’s a great mix from both acclaimed albums, the self-titled debut and last years follow up, ‘Inglorious II’. ‘Read All About It’ has a killer groove to it thanks to the powerhouse drumming. Phil Beaver is truly a beast behind the kit, and along with bassist Colin Parkinson, provides a fantastic foundation for the guys upfront to do their thing. The faster paced ‘Taking The Blame’ has the dandruff flying in the crowd, and a few pints can be seen flying up in the air. It must’ve been the free tap water, as no ‘sweaty’ would waste a pint at these prices, trust me. ‘I Don’t Need Your Loving’ just makes you want to bounce, the beat and the groove is perfect for bouncing, and if you time the bounces correctly, then by the time it finishes you’ve made your way to the barrier! One of the stand out tracks from the debut was ‘Holy Water’. The slower, bluesier side to Inglorious showcases their talent as players, and live it only amplifies this statement. The guitar work from Andreas Eriksson and Drew Lowe is, at times, staggering. Next step for Inglorious? Opening arenas for an act like Whitesnake, or the recently announced Def Leppard/Cheap Trick tour. They’ve got the fanbase in place, someone just needs to take the risk that Inglorious won’t blow them off the stage.
The fact that Steel Panther have been doing their exaggerated comedy-glam-metal-mashup since the early 2000’s, and are still pulling in quite a crowd, is amazing. Even more amazing is that they can still, in current times of various hashtags, the ‘snowflake’, and basically an age when it’s actually harder not to offend anyone than it is to rankle someone… but then again, we do live in a time when Michael McIntyre can sell out multiple nights in arenas up and down the country, so go figure. Maybe the appeal of Steel Panther is that perhaps people are sick of being told what is offensive or not, and sick of not a day going by where someone is on social media apologising for offending someone somewhere. Steel Panther are offensive if you want them to be, but thankfully they don’t apologise. It’s hard to imagine that anyone takes their schtick seriously in 2018, but I’m sure that there are people out there who would baulk if they heard ‘Asian Hooker’ or ‘17 Girls In A Row’. Did anyone ever find out what Tiger Woods thought of their tribute? So, when you walk through the door at a Steel Panther gig, best leave the PC button switched off. You’ll laugh at jokes you probably shouldn’t, but then again you will laugh, and if you go with the flow, you’ll also enjoy some well crafted cheesy hair metal.
Before ‘Supersonic Sex Machine’ opens the show, frontman Michael Starr is over in the wings making hand gestures at someone on the other side. It looks like it’s guitarist Satchel that is on the receiving end of some banter, and that really sets the tone for the show; four guys taking the piss out of each other in the way that only guys can. The crowd are also in for some abuse as well. In the same way that someone sitting in the front row at a comedy gig knows that they will be picked on, if you sit on someone’s shoulders at a Steel Panther gig, you know that you will be singled out. Like the person that Starr points out by saying “Shit, look at the tits on that bitch in the white… fuck!… it’s a guy!” Then said guy lifts his shirt, and wobbles like a human lava lamp. Bassist Lexxi Foxx is the usual butt of most jokes from Starr and Satchel, mainly because of his pout and his habit of checking himself in the mirror. Drummer Stix Zandinia sits atop his riser taking in all the madness that surrounds him. In between all this banter back and forth, Steel Panther actually play some music. ‘Asian Hooker’ and ‘Death To All But Metal’ are still hard to beat, but ‘Tomorrow Night’, ‘Poontang Boomerang’, ‘That’s When You Came In’ (love the acoustic intro), and the mass sing-a-long that is ‘Community Property’ are all special moments. It isn’t a Steel Panther gig until the stage is filled with girls from the crowd for ‘17 Girls In a Row’, and I’m sure that on this occasion I saw someone who looked like Wee Jimmy Krankie in a red wig up there?! It’s not all bawdy lyrics and crowd participation though, Satchel gets his moment in the limelight as he tears through some metal classics during his guitar solo. Satchel played with Rob Halford in Fight, enough said. If he’s good enough for the metal god…
It’s not often that you go to a gig and the entire audience is howling with laughter… unless the band really sucks. Steel Panther do not suck. They are however on tour throughout Europe until mid February. Turn up and let yourself go. Leave the inhibitions at the door, though.
Review: Dave Stott
Images: Dave Jamieson