STEEL PANTHER PUTS ON THE BEST SHOW OF 2014 SO FAR
Unlike many of their metal cohorts, Steel Panther keep turning back the clock and defying the odds — given that the band seems to gain more and more notoriety and popularity ever since their debut in 2008 (I am not counting the band’s previous incarnations). This is occurring despite heavy metal clearly not getting the exposure that it once did back in the ’80s via radio and MTV. Being signed to a major record label for two albums (Universal) before going with an independent (Open E Music), selling out rock venues (such as the Sound Academy shrunk via curtains on this night), and presumably selling a lot of records are just some of the things Steel Panther are doing that many metal bands, whose glory days date back to the ’80s, are unable to replicate in this era.
I have never been a big fan of the concert venue the Sound Academy, where Steel Panther were scheduled to play for the third consecutive year in Toronto. This is mostly because the venue essentially consists of one large rectangle shaped general admission area for most of the approximately 2,000 to 3,100 people in attendance — depending if some curtains are drawn or not. The sightlines to the stage if you are in the back of the crowd are quite poor and that is even without mentioning the large posts in the back that can further block someone’s view. I learned my lesson the hard way back in September of 2012 when I went with some buddies to see Slash play at the Sound Academy. That night we had arrived around 9:15 pm and I was quite disappointed to see that the guitarist had already taken the stage and the place was full. It was very difficult to make my way through the sardine packed crowd and I ended up having a terrible view for most of the show. One of my buddies even left early, probably frustrated with the sightline difficulties from his vantage point.
History would not repeat itself as I was adamant that I would show up when the doors opened this time around, and especially since I heard that the Steel Panther show was sold out. Fellow Sleaze Roxx writer Mark Horvath and I have not been able to agree on many concerts to attend together thus far, but one band that we have no problem agreeing upon is Steel Panther. We arrived at the Sound Academy five minutes prior to the doors opening at 6:30 pm and there was already a line-up of perhaps 30 to 40 people there. Horvath had a posse of friends to meet, so although my plan had been to park myself close to the stage right away, I elected to meet the friendly bunch on the patio which consisted of one pretty Polish damsel and mostly guys who had come from the Kitchener/Waterloo area (about one hour away). There was at least one guy who had driven all the way from Sault Ste. Marie (about seven to eight hours north-west of Toronto) to attend the concert. Obviously, Steel Panther are quite the draw — pulling in people from far and wide to come and attend their shows. Being terrible with names — my Achilles’ heel — I only specifically remember the names of the pretty Polish damsel and a gentleman by the name of Mark who Horvath had dubbed the “walking encyclopedia of rock”. The walking encyclopedia of rock did not disappoint and at one point he rhymed off a number of bands that I had mostly never heard of that I should check out.
I will note that although Steel Panther had a lot of merchandise for sale, I was disappointed that their new CD ‘All You Can Eat’ and their DVD ‘British Invasion’ were each selling for a pricey $25. I already had the album, but was planning on purchasing the DVD — but not for that price since I could simply order it online for likely $5 to $10 less. I certainly appreciate the tension that exists between a band trying to make some money off their merchandising versus fans expecting to pay a little less when the middle men have been eliminated. In any event, others must have thought the same thing and voiced their opinions in that regard because at the end of the evening, both the new CD and the DVD were now each selling for $20.
I had attended Steel Panther‘s concert at the Sound Academy back in 2012 (click here to read that review) so I was anticipating that the band would put on one of the best concerts that I was to attend in 2014 — making up for missing them last year, but I had a good excuse since I was out of the country at that time. The one thing that I was wondering would be whether guitarist Satchel and lead vocalist Michael Starr — along with bassist Lexxi Foxx to a lesser extent — would be changing their stand-up comedy routine and jokes. Those guys were so funny the first time I saw them live, but hearing the same jokes two years later would be disappointing. Luckily, Satchel and Starr had come up with brand new material — albeit on the same type of topics such as gang banging a girl and smoking cocaine with your parents — that seemed so funny while at the concert but not as funny when I think of my daughters.
Before I go on covering Steel Panther‘s amazing performance, which is hands down the best concert that I have seen in 2014, I had to get through the set of opening band Future Villains. Hailing from California, the band got to play to a very good size crowd even though it was probably only 7:30 pm or so when they hit the stage. I was not familiar with Future Villains but was impressed right from the start — in particular by lead vocalist Dusty Bo who has a great set of pipes. I had been previously warned by the walking encyclopedia of rock, aka Mark, that the band would be playing two covers on this night including AC/DC‘s “If You Want Blood, You Got It”. Future Villains ended up playing a spirited and rousing version of that song, but the surprise cover song was when a Steel Panther guitar tech by the name of Kyle came out to accompany the band through an excellent version of Deep Purple‘s “Highway Star”. Given that Future Villains‘ lone EP only has five songs on it, I assume that the band played all of the songs from that release. Future Villains is definitely a band to watch out for, although I did not end up purchasing their EP since it was selling for $15 despite only having five songs — but I will pick it up for a cheaper price down the road.
The last song to be played from the venue’s PA system just prior to the curtain opening for Steel Panther‘s set was Iron Maiden‘s “Number Of The Beast” and you could tell the crowd had brought their singing voice to accompany Starr for every song. What can I say about Steel Panther? The band rocked Toronto from start to finish with every song being a highlight by itself. The stage show, lights, and decor that Steel Panther had were reminiscent of the stages that acts such as David Lee Roth era Van Halen (on a smaller scale) and Poison would have had back in the ’80s. Satchel, Starr and Foxx were extremely funny and had most, if not all, of the crowd sporting big grins and sometimes even laughing out loud. Steel Panther kicked off their show with “Pussywhipped”, the first song from their new ‘All You Can Eat’ CD, and “Tomorrow Night”, one of my favorites from their second album ‘Balls Out’. Just like back in 2012, after the second song had been played Satchel and Starr launched into their comedy routine which I think lasted quite long — although it felt like it flew by given that they were both so funny. Satchel had some material tailor made for Toronto as he gave a couple of good natured barbs towards current mayor Rob Ford, who is spending time in rehab after getting caught smoking cocaine at his sister’s place. You would have thought that mayor Ford would make Steel Panther proud, but Satchel later pointed out something along the lines that “rehab is for pussies”.
After the initial Satchel and Starr comedy routine, Steel Panther continued playing one great song after another with the majority of the audience singing along to all of the words of the funny and sexually charged lyrics. As I have stated in the past, it does not matter how funny the band members can be, nor how good their stage show can look, if Steel Panther did not have the songs to back everything up they would not have achieved anywhere close to the success that they have had to date. Any Steel Panther song is a lesson for a heavy metal band on how to combine great riffs and melodies with funny over-the-top lyrics. Almost all the credit likely has to go to Satchel, whom I understand writes most if not all of the songs and who even proclaimed at the end of the show that he tells Starr what lyrics to sing. Every song that Steel Panther played was so good that I was not thinking, “Oh, I hope they play this song next” — instead I simply enjoyed whatever they had to offer during the evening. The one exception was the guitar solo — although I thought Satchel put in a good performance, I would have liked to hear an extra song such as “Gold-Digging Whore” rather than the solo. For me, the best songs played were “Tomorrow Night”, “Turn Out The Lights” and the three last chosen to close out the set before the encores — “17 Girls In A Row”, “Gloryhole” and “Death To All But Metal”.
I will note that with the chaos going on in the general admission area, consisting of people crowd surfing and pushing towards the front, it was actually pretty easy at the end to get within one or two rows from the front of the stage. However, getting through that last row of people was quite tough as one concert goer told me, “got to hold the line”. As expected, there were a number of women hoisted on guys’ shoulders and Satchel and Starr would incite/invite them to take their tops off to reveal their “boobies” or “titties”. With the crowd cheering on, there were quite a few girls that took them up on their invitation — including a redhead that made her way up on stage a number of times. The duo even ignited a mosh pit in the tight general admission area by playing snippets of a Slayer song. By the time the concert ended, I was completely drenched in sweat from being pressed upon one sweaty body after another for almost two hours.
Towards the end of the last song, I was subject to a live lesson 101 on how a rock star efficiently and quickly picks up a groupie, or in this case, invites a pretty female backstage. The pretty Polish damsel in our group had made her way to the right of the stage where I now was. Starr happened to be nearby, and after taking a look, quietly mouthed from the edge of the stage and amid the fan frenzy in front of him, “Are you married?” and then something along the lines of, “Are you single?” — and that was it! Our female friend was off to the backstage area to presumably meet Michael Starr and the rest of the Steel Panther crew. I was near the front during Steel Panther‘s entire set and never got an invitation to the backstage area!
When I compare Steel Panther‘s 2012 and 2014 Toronto shows, there were a lot of similarities given that the overall presentation for each gig was essentially the same — but the 2014 show still felt fresh and exciting. There is no need to fix something that is not broken. Rather, some simple tweaking to keep the machine going is all that is needed. Steel Panther have definitely figured that out by coming out with some excellent new songs to play (which is no easy feat) and some new jokes to tell while keeping the rest pretty much the same. The Steel Panther concert in Toronto was very well summed up by Horvath who exclaimed in a FaceBook message to me after the show… “Best Monday night I ever had”.
Steel Panther’s setlist:
02. Tomorrow Night
03. Asian Hooker
04. Just Like Tiger Woods
05. Eyes Of A Panther
06. Gangbang At The Old Folks Home
07. If I Was The King
08. Guitar Solo
09. Turn Out The Lights
10. Party Like Tomorrow Is The End Of The World
11. Stripper Girl
12. Girl From Oklahoma
13. The Burden Of Being Wonderful
14. 17 Girls In A Row
16. Death To All But Metal
17. Community Property
18. Party All Day (Fuck All Night)