Guilty pleasures. Everyone can name a few. Princess Leia, pork scratchings, Howard’s Way, Heart…
The list is both long and embarrassing. But right at the top of that list, lauding it from the very summit, staring down from above and doing so with a glint in their eye is Steel Panther.
Has it ever been possible to feel so guilty and yet experience so much pleasure in 90 minutes. Perhaps not since Newcastle United beat Manchester United 4-3 and Alan Shearer goaded Roy Keane into getting sent off. But that’s football. That’s OK.
This is hair metal. A genre looked down upon by many even within the rock fraternity. And it’s spoof hair metal at that.
The guilt comes in waves. When you’re laughing at a bloke named Lexxi Foxxx talking about his sexual relationships (and that’s putting it ever so politely) with girls half his age – as a 20-year-old. When you’re revelling in the spectacle that is four middle-aged men describing their manhood as Community Property in a hilarious nod to Extreme. And especially when you see a 40-something (let’s be generous here) rock God simulating oral sex with his microphone.
Normally this would not be funny. Really. But then a Steel Panther gig is not normal. And for all that guilt there’s a whole tour bus full of pleasure coming your way – guaranteed.
Choosing three strippers as their support band was par for the course but The Sirens were a bit like mangos – they looked great but weren’t that good. Fruity yet far from sweet. At least their soundtrack included the rarely heard (probably for a reason) Def Leppard cover of the David Essex hit Rock On and Bon Jovi’s Bad Medicine. But their stage prop of a bar replete with vertical chains looked like the doorways you see between a butcher’s meat counter and his back room. Weird.
Weird, of course, is the name of the game at a gig where anything goes. The Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown of hair metal, Steel Panther don’t stand on ceremony as they openly advocate promiscuity, poke fun at homosexuality and even, stretching their peculiar brand of comedy to the very limit, joke about cancer. When the politically correct brigade passed through Steel Panther’s town the boys were clearly on the road.
And it’s a shame they’re not on it more often. This was a very rare opportunity to catch a headline show from the self-styled saviours of heavy metal – normally limited by their lucrative dual residencies in Hollywood and Las Vegas. This three-date flying visit to the UK followed on from ZZ Top support slots and last summer’s Download triumph but demand for the Panther far outstrips supply.
It’s easy to see why. This was one of the funniest shows you’ll see all year and if Lexxi wasn’t given enough lines – we’re talking sentences, not coke – then that was about the only criticism you could level at these masters of the art of parody.
Ripping off every hair metal band in history, from Leppard to Whitesnake, Bon Jovi to the aforementioned Extreme, their debut album Feel The Steel is the most hilarious rock record you’ll hear all year. Live the disc’s standout tracks take on a life of their own with Asian Hooker, Fat Girl (Thar She Blows) and the anthemic Death To All But Metal masterful in their madness.
Frontman Michael Star might have made his knob joke one time too often and guitarist Satchel clearly wanted to be Yngwie Malmsteen circa Odyssey (and who doesn’t?) during his showpiece solo but excess all areas is what the Panther preach. And the message comes across loud and clear.
Throwing in three bona (see what we’ve done there) fide 80s classics in the Crue’s Shout At The Devil, Skid Row’s Youth Gone Wild and Guns N Roses’ Paradise City took the band beyond their curfew (by a truly rebellious two minutes) and straight to the hearts of a capacity crowd yearning a final, triumphant shot at spandex wrapped nostalgia.
The Sirens could learn a thing or two from any one (OK, seven of them) of the eight girls dragged on stage for the Gunners’ classic and suitably raucous set closer – the young lady sporting the retro David Hasselhof T-shirt particularly enjoyed her five minutes of fame.
It was a fitting finale to a fine night of drunken debauchery and devilish fun. If this lot really are the saviours of heavy metal the future’s brighter than Lexxi’s dental work. But the big question is this: what will Winger bring to the table in a few week’s time?