Hard-hitting rock’n’roll with a punk soul

This is not Velvet Revolver. And it’s certainly not Guns ’n’ Roses.

There will be no Slash or Axl to steal the show. From the band’s name, it’s clear where the audience’s focus is tonight. Duff walks on stage looking scruffily elegant in his trademark black-on-black look of sleeveless t-shirt, tattooed arms and bleached-blonde hair. Ok, he’s got the dischevelled bad-boy-of-rock look down-pat but what about the music?

Duff Mckagan’s hard-hitting rock’n’roll has a punk soul that occasionally delves into his many music-career reincarnations. You can hear influences from The Misfits but especially guitarist Mike Squires, a Jack Black School of Rock look-a-like, borrows riffs from Saul Hudson in VR version.

After a dynamic start, interspered with some throwaway remarks like “It’s motherfucking hot in here,” the former gunner reveals the secret of his stamina. The wild antics that gained him the king-of-beer status in his G'n'R days are well behind, just like the industrial quantities of vodka that almost killed him in ’94. Martial arts, sex and Red Bull have replaced them? “What a fuck, I drunk 15 Red Bulls before I came on stage”. The crowd cheers wildly. At 43, it’s a very daring thing to do and the energy that he sprouts clearly intimidates the other band members. The feeling is that Loaded plays on the thin line between being a supporting act to Mckagan and actually being a band. Some of the edgier, punkier songs are as good as punk can be when you can’t properly hear the lyrics – boring and noisy. When the band shrugs off their subjection for Mckagan, Loaded can rock. 'Sleaze Factory' is a shining example.

'Seattlehead' sounds raw and angry. A shot straight from the heart, it’s a personal retrospective of Duff‘s love-hate relationship with LA: "Got sick and tired of bein’ scared as hell/A wasted man, just a shell of myself/But that was then, and this is now/My pretty baby, I’ve changed somehow."

And indeed Duff has changed. 'Wasted Heart' is good stuff with a surprisingly delicate and clean guitar solo by “Nacho Libre” Squires and 'No More' is another nice touch. But what about the audience? What about Mckagan’s repertoire? After Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland’s pathetic efforts of concealing the cumbersome G’n’R past of the other members of that supergroup (to then be forced to play at least three Guns classics per show), Loaded decided not to deny the audience of a stroll down memory lane. However, Duff is no Axl and he knows it only too well. 'So Fine' was his song to begin with. The audience responds pretty well, engaging in a sing-a-long that manages to conceal the awful revamped arrangements. 'Attitude', a must from the “Use Your Illusion” world tour goes down just fine.

Mckagan calls for the ladies with blue eyes in the audience to admire the best bass player he knows that, by chance, is playing tonight. With all due respect for Rouse, seriously Duffy …come on?! Surely, as a-man-of-the-world, he’s played and jammed with some of rocks finest. The audience looks unconvinced, too, and doesn’t cheer. “I used to play bass and still do, as a matter of fact”. Finally, Mckagan and Rouse exchange roles, with the latter on guitar and vocals producing a decent enough result. After 'Translucent', Duff suggested we might know this one. Well, we do. It’s dust n’ bones with him back on vocals and this time I have no complaints. 'It’s So Easy' from his appetite-for-destruction days is next and The Academy is on fire. The ending, however, is messy with guest appearance from Dead Boys guitarist to play 'New Rose' and 'I Wanna be your Dog'.

Duff Mckagan is a living legend and it’s hard to deny that everybody in the audience was there to witness a piece of rock history at work rather than a new band. He was on great form and he tried really hard and that goes for the rest of the band too. But I’m sure most of the audience tonight used their illusion imagining a different band on stage tonight.

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