Steel Panther / Black Stone Cherry
Review: Karl Stefanovic’s Evil Twin – Luna Park Big Top, Sydney 17/06/2016
Gallery: Luke Sutton – Festival Hall, Melbourne 18/06/2016
Ah, the ’80s. This writer was born in ’96, so they can’t say shit, but if the decade of neon was anything like Steel Panther make it out to be, then it was one hell of a time. The decade’s most iconic drunken regret have made a pretty solid name for themselves Down Under: their trips are all but annual at this point, with every passing crowd growing vaster, louder, and itchier. The cluttered Big Top hall bathed in steam only proved this further – even if the crowd was less hot, slim twenty-somethings eager to whip their tits out, and more chubby middle-aged men eager to see hot, slim twenty-somethings whip their tits out.
Leading the proceedings were Black Stone Cherry, who took to the stage at 7:30 sharp and by 7:32, made it crystal clear why their headline tour was abruptly cancelled. It’s hard to envision any rational member of society spending real money to see this Southern-tinged mess tarnish their Friday night; the cringe-rock quartet powered through a tedious 40-minute set of the stalest, most effortlessly drudging solo-driven mulletcore this side of Triple M’s reject bin. It were as if Smash Mouth covered Motörhead with the tabs adapted from Fisher Price’s My First Hard Rock Song – a point especially made hilarious when a legitimate (and legitimately tasteless) rendition of “Ace Of Spaces” capped the set. They’re an insult to actual black stone cherries, which, while inhumanly delicious, could never subdue the petrol-esque aftertaste this poor excuse of an opening act had left in our mouths.
But it’s okay, because new bartenders will always pour too much if you ask them to go freehand, and Steel Panther can un-sour even the harshest of Friday night blues. House lights shuttered off when Love & Hate’s “Blackout (In The Red Room)” bellowed through the hall, riotous cheers conquering every amp in the room as the unofficial sponsors of Cialis strutted onstage. Without a second to waste, the foursome laid into three of their fieriest cuts: staple opener “Eyes Of A Panther” brought Sydney to life like the arpeggiated fuse of a New Year’s firework, swerving freely into a slick double-whammy of “Tomorrow Night” and “Fat Girl”. Ten minutes in, and Steel Panther exerted more unrelenting energy than most ’80s legends can across a full two-hour set.
Of course, nobody goes to watch Steel Panther in concert just for the music – a decent third of the show was reserved for banter, the quartet riffing off on a four-way stand-up routine that meant the general consensus was an equal split of passionate singing along, and uncontrollable laughter. “I used to live in Adelaide,” axe-slinger Satchel proclaimed early on, “and my grandmother would cook… Crystal meth for the whole family.” When they weren’t bouncing back and forth in piquant self-deprication, though, they were shredding out with the kind of tireless fervour not even the bands they parody could live up to. Michael Starr is a vocal prodigy, and between ravenous hollers and kaleidoscopic gyrating, had us all in the palm of his hand. Stix Zadinia was similarly drool-inducing behind the drums, every crushing snare and kick-laden solo (almost) as infectious as the man himself.
Switching sporadically between his bass and a face mirror, Lexxi Foxx put the ‘glam’ in glam metal; if his flawless(ly botoxed) cheekbones don’t make you rock hard, the roaring chords on “Gold Digging Whore” would. Stamping the middle of the set was a four-minute ‘gui-drum’ solo from Satchel and Zadinia, seizure-paced snippets of Metallica, Guns ‘n’ Roses, and our own national anthem – the only time anyone has ever wanted to sing “Advance Australia Fair” – twined around riffery that has us convinced any women Satchel’s ever fingered are pent up in a paralytic’s unit.
Deep cuts be damned, the setlist was reserved exclusively for Steel Panthers biggest, sweatiest, sexiest moments – “Just Like Tiger Woods” and “Asian Hooker” stood out from the second they trickled from the speakers; an acoustic “Girl From Oklahoma” was drawn out with the introduction of Yasmin: a punter who, clad in a tight leopard-print dress and frizzy blonde hair, looks like she was plucked directly from 1977. It wouldn’t be a Steel Panther concert either without “17 Girls In A Row”, wherein far more than 17 girls took to the stage to show off their assets. As per usual, “Death To All But Metal” absolutely tore the room to shreds before a bittersweet encore of “Community Property” and “Party All Day” left us weak in the knees, and weaker in the crotch.
Yes, they’re the most proudly misogynistic band still kicking; they’re as gleefully racist as any good suburban grandmother, and they’re not adverse to making LGBTQ+ people the brunt of their jokes – but that’s part of what makes Steel Panther so entertaining (and this is coming from a queer feminist). They’re a satirical, caricatured escape from the grittiness of the real world, and with riffs that sick, banter that golden, and spandex that tight, they’re a fucking great one at that. Long live irreverent, tongue-in-cheek hair metal with the political correctness of 1930’s USA. Long live Steel Panther.