Review by Sophie Maughan, photos by Mark Lloyd
DISCLAIMER: This review may contain profanity, copious references to sex and illegal substances and will not be suitable in any way shape or form for the following peer groups: the humourless, individuals lacking a sense of irony, feminists and sad sack internet trolls.
With the cloying scent of hairspray lodged firmly in our nostrils and spandex-clad bodies as far as the eye can reach, Midlands Rocks are here and ready to feel the steel. Yes, the one and only Steel Panther are back in town for the second (and sold-out) UK date of the Spreading The Disease (S.T.D) tour. We suggest you lock up your daughters – coz it’s gonna be a hot one in Wolverhampton tonight.
Tonight’s support comes in the form of stunning Swedish rock songstress Mia Klose. Her early Pat Benatar / Lita Ford femme fatale with balls stylings combined with her infectious blend of 80’s AOR and metal make her a worthy warm-up choice. The hype surrounding this artist is entirely justified when you combine Klose’s incredible stage presence and her ability to keep the masses engaged during her 40 minute set. Definitely one to watch.
As the clocks roll round to 9.15, the unmistakable intro to ‘Eyes of a Panther’ booms out across the Civic and the Sunset Strip’s most salacious quartet hit the stage to a cacophony of wild applause and cheers. Hip swivelling frontman Michael Starr commands our attention immediately with his shouts of “Give it to me!” whilst rocking the standard exposed flesh and some serious leather. Meanwhile bassist Lexxi Foxxx takes up his spot in front of that perfectly placed wind machine that allows him to whip that über coiffured barnet back and forth. It is actually quite mesmerizing to witness. MR suddenly finds themselves wondering why they don’t have the follicles (or plumped up pout) to match. It is a strange moment. ‘Tomorrow Night’ incites the first en masse singalong of the evening and there is absolutely no mistaking the delight of the Fanthers in attendance when Stix Zadinia finishes it off with an extended (and might we add, bloody good) thunderous drum solo.
We learn that it is exceptionally difficult to play two songs in a row “when you’re 65” so this presents an opportunity for some audience interaction. Unsurprisingly, the between song banter from the Panther contingent is lewd, rude and exceptionally crude. Highlights include Starr commenting on how the pussy in Wolverhampton is “super fucking tight”, a highly inappropriate joke about a certain Welsh band whose singer is now incarcerated and Satchel thanking a blond on the balcony “for the tits and vagina” but how she needs “a manhole cover” for the latter of the two. Against my better judgment, I find myself giggling at the “I’d kick Bieber in the balls for heavy metal” admission and the x-rated caption / diagram “information” screens that are projected during ‘Asian Hooker’ are absolutely hysterical. You’ll never be able to look at sushi in the same way again. We are treated to a rousing rendition of latest track ‘Party Like Tomorrow Is The End Of The World’ (from forthcoming release All You Can Eat) and invited to “get sexy” on filthy favourite ‘Let Me Cum In’. The thrusting is solid, constant and everyone here loves it. Pints of beer and horns alike are thrust skyward and hands are in the air from the front to back of the venue on the penultimate chorus.
Putting all quick quips and dirty gags aside, one aspect of the Steel Panther arsenal that is ALWAYS overlooked is this band’s level of musicianship. It is extremely impressive to behold in a live capacity and the guitar solo that follows suit is the very embodiment of that talent. Satchel evokes the spirit of Eddie Van Halen as he wields and taps that axe – paying homage to that unmistakable sound of 80’s rock and fucking roll. No backing tracks needed here! Technically proficient and impossible to ignore, it really does give a certain sense of validity to previous blasé statements like “he’s better than David Lee Roth!” Okay, so “better” might be overdoing it just a tad but judging by the rapturous response, he definitely ain’t just a gigolo. I’m thrilled to hear the aforementioned riffery segue smoothly into personal favourite ‘Turn Out The Lights’. Michael’s Starr’s soaring falsetto gets a real workout on this number, particularly on the memorable (albeit graphic) “I’m gonna pound you ‘til you fuckin’ start to bleed bitch!” lyric line but he delivers it with effortless panache. Sadly, Lexxii’s two or three note “hair solo” doesn’t quite match the pantheon of musical talent displayed moments earlier (“he’s stupid, that’s why he’s a bass player”), but it is still nonetheless hugely entertaining to watch.
With a setlist that has so far been made up of songs from debut Feel The Steel and Balls Out, SP mix it up and subsequently throw two brand new tracks into the mix – the brilliant ‘Gloryhole’ (“Wolverhampton gloryholes are the best dude!”) and ‘The Burden Of Being Wonderful’ (check out the video it is a hoot) – the initial sound feedback on which is blamed entirely (and unfairly) on resident drug dealer / guitar tech Gary. Sorry Gary!
One thing that has astonished me so far is the overall lack of nudity. The only nipples I have seen have belonged to blokes. And clearly, this is a sentiment shared by the band. They proclaim the only thing that would make Wolverhampton better would be if she got the boobs out. Cue what seems like hundreds of girls practically chucking themselves over the barrier to get on the stage. Tits (of all shapes and sizes) are bared and asses are shook during ‘Gold Digging Whore’ and ‘It Won’t Suck Itself’ – the latter almost being interpreted as a kinky call to arms. Now, I’m all for female solidarity and the whole “you go girl!” mentality, but I do wish that some of these lovely ladies had taken a longer look in their mirrors when they got dressed for the occasion.
With the blood of many a male well and truly pumping now, Steel Panther round off an electrifying set with fan fave ‘Death to all but Metal’ – lyrics are screamed back in unison and huge confetti cannons explode showering a capacity crowd stamping and baying for more. We are not disappointed – the house lights dim once again which is the sexy Michael Starr’s cue to thank us all for buying a ticket and that we are going to “beat Lincoln’s asses tonight!” The encore kicks off with an epic, hair-on-back-of-neck rising version of ‘Community Property’ on which the guys are rendered inaudible. For all their bluster, they seem genuinely humbled by such appreciation and it is a really, dare I say it, touching moment. A random dude sporting a huge blond wig named Ben (or the artist formerly known as “Ratchet”) then gets invited up to jam Satchel’s guitar lines on ’17 Girls In A Row’. He totally kills it and is allowed to remain up there and rock out – much to Satchel’s chagrin. Curfew is fast approaching but there’s just enough time for the anthemic ‘Party All Day’ which Starr performs in his new “bought especially for England” hat. Cheers!
As our collective voices crack from the deafening adulation thrown back after the final drum roll is thumped and those guitar chords reverberate round our eardrums, Steel Panther show they are a truly caring bunch with one final message for fans preparing to venture home: “For any drunk drivers out there… make sure you do a big line of cocaine before you set off!”* Wise words indeed. An incredible evening of tight music and unashamed filth – what more could you ask for on a Saturday night? Next stop Manchester and the “fanthers” of the North West have got a lot to live up to. Wolverhampton, you rocked HARD tonight.
*NB: Midlands Rocks does not recommend trying this after a night out on the piss, and of course we always encourage our readers to drink responsibly.
Steel Panther’s new album All You Can Eat drops on April 1st 2014 via Universal Republic.
1. Eyes of a Panther
2. Tomorrow Night
3. Asian Hooker
4. Just Like Tiger Woods
5. Party Like Tomorrow Is The End of the World
6. Let Me Cum In
7. Guitar Solo
8. Turn Out The Lights
9. Hair Solo
11. The Burden Of Being Wonderful
12. Gold Digging Whore
13. It Won’t Suck Itself
14. Death To All But Metal
15. Community Property
16. 17 Girls In a Row
17. Party All Day
See more of Mark’s photos here;