Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators came to Atlanta....
Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators
Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators

“S” is a serpentine little strumpet of an alphabet stop with a surly past. It is a sleepwalking hook that makes people think of snakes, Satan, and the way both infinity symbols and figure eights can be venomously abrupted on the page and in real life. The hissing sibilance of “S’’ forms the most absurdly perfect corollary starting sound for most everything the somewhat surreptitious letter will ever spell or specify, but especially when it comes to Slash, the swerving road’s most royal rogue and a rock classicist as necessary to any summary of 1980s-forward muso-virtuosos as Shakespeare is to the history of the sonnet. Snapped strings. Seven-minute solos. Sunset Strip sultans. Soulful sleaze rock. Saul Hudson, a Stoke-on-Trent-raised string-smith superstar who has had his sonic shit all the way together for close to sixty shining years, is now steering his sizable skills to seismic new splendors in a synesthetic swap-meet with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators (SMKC).

A Sinuous Legend

Sneak out to see SMKC live and you will swiftly succumb to the conscious certification that the “S”  on Slash signifies a great many stereochemical stills. Still the leaning pillar of Les Paul that anyone can tell is him even in pure black silhouette. Still shredding like Watergate went to the paper mill, finding the salacious groove by means both fair and foul, and always where foul turns fair under his silver strum-slither. Still slinging sweat from his slinky curls every sixth bar or so under that gravity-defying West Hollywood hat. Still got the slant stance. Still got a grin like regicide. Still mad-cool, old-skool L.A. in his mirrored aviators that seem to have sunsets in them even when he is performing indoors in the sepulchral dark.

Slash is still built like a barrel-chested bull at 56 (“S’’ for sinews rippling for sure) and still in a subterranean category of rakishly handsome he winkingly invented. Though, this smitten scribbler has always maintained that all that space around the shoulders was never there to battle anything but to house the titanic ticker inside, because “S” in Slash’s instance more than stands for a standup guy that was and remains one of the great sweethearts of rock by a country marathon. Slash is so the guy who asks after your family and tells you secrets he maybe shouldn’t but should. He is the scionwood epitome of what Dave Grohl has ingeniously and beyond-accurately labeled “heavy metal parking lot cool.”

Back in the height of the Aquanet heydays, there were initially small-minded smear tactics in place from critics and conservative listeners alike that attempted to shame guitar players like Slash, as if they were stowaways to proper stardom on that instrument somehow. Sad people were mad that the breathtaking boys in bands like Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, and Bon Jovi were always sorted for E’s and Wizz, had girls with Sacajawea-level strands on both arms, and were a damn sight sultrier in sequins than Saturday Night Fever and Staying Alive put together. While the slow ones slogged on jealousy-stressing about how skeleton-slim all the well-locked lads were or how much sake they were swigging, the real point of a player like Slash was being conveniently overlooked for a longer while than ever should have been allowed. That, like the recently discovered Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse fish (the most colorful, naturally neon fish known to exist to date), he had his own taxonomy, and that it summoned a neo-Hamlet in terms of longevity in harmonics: to play’s the thing. Slash’s kind had not been seen before, but those that had tried to pass immoral surveillance off as soundness of character were soon strong-armed by his staggering abilities into the stark recognition that, actually, tangled tresses and technical proficiency can and do go together quite swimmingly.


Within Slash’s storied career, “S” is certainly also for stratospheric stat slams. His is a stupefying syllabus of star-making steps and stockpiled statuses that reads like a personalized Dead Sea scroll of impossible rock god dreams: over 100 million records shared from his hands, one Grammy swiped and seven nominations saluted, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, writer of riffs ranked by peer-review at slots 1 and 6 of the best ever recorded, labeled number 9 on Gibson’s own list of “Top 25 Guitarists of All Time,” his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a New York Times best-selling author, an involved horror film producer, and founding member of more off-the-spectrometer supergroups than anyone can shake a stick at. As a result of the wide berth he has always admirably given sequential expectations and stagnation, there are seas of sickly “S” words that do not ever apply to Slash or his body of work as well–words like superficial, second-rate, scripted, sanitized, and saddled.

Slash’s upbringing has skewed bicameral in every regard and the unparalleled gifts of polarity are visible throughout the interstellar history of his contributions to music. Born beautifully biracial in the ceramics capital of England to a Black American costume designer mother who was responsible for some of David Bowie’s better sequins and a white English artist father who designed album covers for unforgettables such as Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, Slash spent his soul-shaping years in Laurel Canyon from age 11 onward, wandering like a subversive Mowgli iteration of Boo Radley down to the fabled Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards from the earliest age. Slash’s worldliness and otherworldliness can be discerned not just in every note he has professionally played, but even in his “attack” as the serious player-analysts would call it—stealth in shadow, snake pit surprise, surreal sojourns. All of this stewpans into a guitar style that carries equal appeal for scroungy stoners and skittish sommeliers alike.

By that same omnipresent token, Slash is one of the most famous surviving rock stars on the planet, yet often goes wholly unrecognized, like a supernatural sleuth on the street, until he dons the signature shades and the sartorially sly skull covering that have become so synonymous with his image over the course of countless iconic videos. It’s a bit like superimposing a faux horn on a real unicorn so that the mortal skeptics can successfully perceive the mystical creature before them. RuPaul does say, “You’re born naked and the rest is drag.” To fit the science of that soothful saying to our Saul, one might transmute the truism to, “You’re born faking and the rest is Slash.”

The SMKC Band

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators

New SMKC listeners may be familiar with Myles Kennedy’s seductively simmer-saturated voice from his sanguine second-first gig, as frontman for Alter Bridge. Kennedy began his collaborations with Slash during late 2009 and quickly solidified himself as the sole leading vocalist appearing in Slash’s solo work by Apocalyptic Love in 2012. These two seminal swashbucklers have been slipstreaming sound off one another as a formal unit in SMKC since 2011. Strengthened by rhythm guitar support from Frank Sidoris, supported by smut-laden bass by Todd Kerns, and with the Animal-sticks handled to staunch superiority by Brent Fitz, SMKC has been bringing its synth-slaying dynamic to the sword fight for more than a solid decade now and have revealed themselves at every recording and performing turn to be naturals at tearing the sacrificial hell out of any place they play. This is a band of brothers wielding a steroidal degree of galloping talent, and Slash stands at the stern of their snarling ship like a scandalously cool Steampunk sugar baron who happens to play scorching slide guitar.

Todd Kerns

The Special Sheen of 4

Slash’s sewn up combat record includes a 30-year partnership with Gibson that has resulted not just in the supreme honor of a Slash Les Paul Standard in both a November Burst and an Appetite Burst, but in 4 being crowned with the historic laurel of being the first album ever released on the newly minted Gibson Records, to which Slash is the preliminary artist ever signed. Gibson Records is headquartered in the Gibson company’s long-standing hometown of Nashville, where 4 was synchronously brought to studio fruition under the supervision of one of the great SSL-board sorcerers of all Nashvillian time, Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Rival Sons, Jason Isbell, John Prine). Representing Slash’s fifth album as a solo artist but fourth in conjunction with the SMKC crew, 4 is the first we have heard from SMKC in an equivalent four years. Call that “S” for a surfeit of synchronicity and symbolism.

Lead single “The River Is Rising” sweeps in like a dose of the shakes. When SMKC recently performed this one in all its serrated glory on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the small-hours host introduced the band in the best way anyone could introduce the record: “It’s time to get very loud.” Which 4 does, and to extraordinary effect. With “Whatever Gets You By”, it will be obvious straight away why Slash has said this stout riff is one of his favorite aspects of 4; it sounds like spirals of liquid lightning striking from his fingers to your face.

C’est La Vie” is a surefooted singalong that starts with a sinful talk box psalm from Slash that will take your ears to second-base without even considering buying them dinner first. It’s a goodbye song, but spiny like a stegosaurus, with a screeching-Jesus of a lead break that should send any lingering Lames in your vicinity reaching for the smelling salts.

Spirit Love” seems to spill out of a snake-charmer’s basket with Slash on electric sitar at the intro and the rest of the song seeping magic on a strange breeze. “Fill My World” is another sharpshooting single with an obsidian stare. Fascinatingly written from the perspective of Kennedy’s dog, ‘Mozart’, in the eye of a storm, its canine chaos sympathizes in simplistic tandem with all the dark matter concerns of mankind.

The six-minute saga of “Fall Back To Earth” shelters a majestic sonic narcotic of a riff that Slash conjured whilst on safari in South Africa. It is a diabolic, unsolvable demon froth sculpted by crowbars, and steals the chorus spotlight from the vocal in a skaw-ways and deliciously seditious fashion.

Captured to completion using a full-band-live-to-tape method in a second-guess-slaughtering 10 days at RCA’s Studio A, 4 has a bombstruck energy that will give your ears a welcome leathering and might well even put a cyclone tune back in the heels of the committedly sofa-bound. The record slaloms fluently between leitmotifs of emotional clairvoyance, unnatural disturbances, and hard seasons. Amidst it all, Slash’s calico charisma is ever-shimmering. As a show of solidarity, Gibson created and released a limited run of 250 Slash Les Paul Standard 4 Album Edition guitars. These synetic cherries sold out on the day of the record’s release within the span of two hours. Just another spot where you get to see Slash redefine the word select as it pertains to his particular synergy with his endorsers.

The Show | Atlanta’s Coca-Cola Roxy

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators

Shared experience of a certain decibel of significance has a reverberation. Sound, especially, lays over places and times like a palimpsest, affecting and summoning emotion from even those individuals who were not living when its first echoes rang out to become exotic states of matter. The first thing you will notice if you have the privilege of seeing an SMKC show such as the one QRO slipped into at Atlanta’s Coca-Cola Roxy on March 18, 2022 is that half the audience in attendance is not old enough by half to remember GNR in their first incarnation. This is a sublime and salient sign that couples to glorious (and sometimes hilarious) effect with the staidly Slash-loyal supporters and elder statesmen that abound, one of whom was gleefully spotted at the Atlanta gig sporting a “Who the fuck is Axl Rose?” sweatshirt.

When Slash strides out onto the stage it feels like an eidetic memory, sucker-punched. Even if you didn’t know anything whatsoever about the legendary riff monsters of metal-based music, you would know just from his gait that he has been raining drinkable dragon fire on every major and minor stage of human civilization since some of the scavengers and specters enshrined within this contemporary spent-force-and-sterilization era were quite small and/or still sperm.

Shotgun anthems like “Driving Rain” and the dark edifices of “My Antidote”, with its magnolia-spiked opening harmonies, derive from an operatic sensibility that is part of Slash’s native weaponry, but very seldom seen in younger rock bands today, and where it is, it becomes placidly theatrical, rather than wolfishly ravishing. The difference is the hero’s habitability within those actual tones and tales within his own life. Slash can do it; others just buy the sticker.

Seasoned stripers such as “Back From Cali” off his self-titled first solo offering, “You’re A Lie,” and “Standing In The Sun” were time-sealed opportunities for Slash to show off the way he almost speaks his solos, like whispered soliloquies, chewing each syllable of his sound into an untamed prose with a syntax all its own, and one that he has proven across decades of steadfast showmanship to be sculpted of molten iron. Making lava plains out of little spaces of rented silence in every song, whatever notes Slash strings together bring cruelty and caprice into an interreligious dialogue that writhes like a star-dusted sidewinder.

Myles Kennedy

As shown on standouts like “April Fool” off 4, “World On Fire”, and “Doctor Alibi”, which Slash originally recorded with the latest, greatest Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, SMKC has a snatching way of making every tune feel stolen and slippery. They are a sonorous sex machine dripping scads of scattering semitones and ear-splurges like sizzling summer crushes, and at the spinning center of each song is Slash, suffusing each scaled snog with his sphinxlike sunbeams and all that he instinctively knows about sweet spots on and off the fretboard.

Atlanta fans were additionally treated to SMKC’s soaring rendition of Elton John’s immortal standard, “Rocket Man,” and the in-person experience was every bit as superlative as the masterpiece had sounded when the boys performed it on Howard Stern to the delight of dreamy delinquents everywhere just a few weeks prior. Originally recorded as their swoon-studded submission for the soundtrack to the Disney+ documentary entitled Stuntman, this one sent scores of shivers down collective spines. Shutting the place and their set all the way down with a skin-smarting burn-through of “Anastasia”, Slash sent his heart-spun spectators home with a double-shot of his characteristic sweetness, saying that Atlanta was always one of his favorite places in the entire country to visit for both the longtime friends he has in the ATL, as well as his love of its southern food–much of which matches his own spirit for life-giving salt and tang!

All true saviors of anything must needs be mad and dangerous. This is six-times true in one slung forth from a sound world centered on harlots and hairspray. Rarest are the men who can be all of this and also complete the requisite grail-task of redrawing the world to their own bespoke dimensions. For all the haute-deranged Salome and de Sade of the glam-metal 1980s, Slash has never been without a soulful order about him. Squaring all manner of supercilious contradictions seamlessly and with a stray dog species of sentience, he is all the page-turner passions, occult investigations, prophesies, and warnings of rock-n-roll in situ–a rudimental force captured in a sauntering Kodachrome portrait that never faded into superstition. Slash is a man with yield in him only where yield isn’t yellow, one of the last of the original swaggering stewards of that saber-toothed brand of L.A. street-grit that defined its era and electrified all that came after–and he is always, always playing for the love of the game. This pair of jubilant facts stack to symmetrical perfection (much in the manner of the slopes of Marshalls behind him) within the sturdy songcraft he is now conjuring alongside Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators.

With Guns N’ Roses slated to be touring throughout the remainder of 2022, Slash and SMKC will be back up to their usual alchemy at a slew of dates in international cities beginning in early 2023. Skip work to see them, slide under the rope, stream their swirling shuffle if you must, but do not sequester yourself from these sparkling soundmen, some of the last of their breed. Until social media slores are satisfied for slander or the scimitar moon falls out of the sky, you will never see guitar rock so superbly slick, unbesmirched, and snakelike-sacred anyplace else.

Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators

Setlist | Coca-Cola Roxy, Atlanta 3.18.22

  1. Driving Rain
  2. My Antidote
  3. Shots Fired
  4. Halo
  5. Back From Cali
  6. Spirit Love
  7. The River Is Rising
  8. Whatever Gets You By
  9. Always On The Run (Lenny Kravitz cover)
  10. Standing In The Sun
  11. Fall Back To Earth
  12. Speed Parade
  13. C’est La Vie
  14. Fill My World
  15. April Fool
  16. Doctor Alibi
  17. Rocket Man (Elton John cover)
  18. Nothing To Say
  19. You’re a Lie
  20. World On Fire
  21. Anastasia

The author would like to dedicate this piece to the life and legacy of the irreplaceable Taylor Hawkins, without whose eccentric orbit and creatively volatile elements, so many in the artistic community inside and outside of music could never have understood mile-wide starlight and sacred fire in the way that the simple virtue of his primal rhythms made us. Taylor, you were and remain a walk-in wardrobe of all that will ever be wonderful in this world.

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