BY MELISSA RUGGIERI
In his black top hat, black muscle shirt, black sunglasses and with a black bandanna poking out of his pocket, Slash was a familiar sight.
His champion guitar skills would be enough to keep him relevant, but in the years since the demise of the original Guns N’ Roses, the Brillo-topped musician has been a constant presence, whether with Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver or his own solo career, which just saw the release of his second album, “Apocalyptic Love.”
On Wednesday night at The Tabernacle, in front of a packed crowd – impressive for a school night – Slash and his current bandmates, singer Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, ripped through nearly two dozen songs.
While fans will always grumble about not hearing their particular favorite song, Slash and Co. stretched the field quite well. New tracks “Halo,” “Standing in the Sun” and “Not for Me” were interspersed among the cowbell-bashing GN’R favorite “Nightrain,” the swaggering “Back from Cali” from Slash’s 2010 solo debut and the heavy funk groove of GN’R’s “Rocket Queen.”
At the end of that rock classic, Slash took center stage for an extended riff-fest that was almost mesmerizing in its relentlessness. His arms slicked with sweat, Slash’s nimble playing was spine-tingling and his musicality simply inspiring.
As a frontman, Alter Bridge singer Kennedy wasn’t the flashiest, as he paced the stage with a boyish smile and quietly asked for audience interaction. But he doesn’t have to be a stereotypical wild man rocker because this is Slash’s show (besides, the rest of the band — bassist Todd Kearns, guitarist Frank Sidoris and Snape look-a-like, drummer Brent Fitz — have the rocker look covered).
Kennedy is a first-rate singer, but his robust voice was showcased better on “Not for Me” and “Carolina” than some of the yelp-ier GN’R songs. Kearns, meanwhile, handled lead vocals on a couple of tracks, including “Doctor Alibi,” and beefed up the background vocals throughout the show (he also handled the “where do we go” portion of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” to perfect effect).
The slow-burning “Starlight” and frantic musical exercise at the end of “Anastasia” bookended a Slash master class in guitar soloing that also demonstrated why he always winds up on those “best of” lists. He is one of the best, no doubt.
While the audience happily participated with air punches, whoops and shouted-along choruses throughout the night, it was the chiming, clear opening of “Sweet Child” that supplied the expected upsurge of excitement.
It might be GN’R’s poppiest song, but even that will never deter Slash from propping a foot on the monitor, tilting his guitar neck upright, and leaning into another blistering solo – exactly the way fans want to see him.