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Blu-ray Music Review: Slash – Made In Stoke 24/7/11

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When Slash hit the road on his debut solo tour last year he decided to make a special stop at the place he’d called home until the age of five, Stoke-on-Trent, England. We all know that the young Saul Hudson eventually made it across the pond to the United States, where he took on the name Slash and formed one of the greatest rock and roll bands in the world, Guns N’ Roses. Neither Slash nor the Gunners ever made it over to Stoke to play a gig until now, so Slash wanted to give his old hometown a very special treat by recording his first ever performance there for a live concert video and CD.

Made in Stoke 24/7/11 was recorded at the Victoria Hall in Stoke-on-Trent on July 24th, 2011 towards the end of Slash’s world tour in support of his debut solo album, Slash. The album featured an assortment of guest vocalists of such varying styles as Fergie, Ozzy, Lemmy and Iggy — last names not required here. One of the other vocalists was Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy, who sang on two of the best tracks, and Slash was so impressed with his amazing set of pipes (as well as his personality) that he not only invited him to handle all of the lead vocals on the ensuing tour, but also all of the lead vocals on his forthcoming solo album.

The 21-song setlist features eight songs from Slash, a few Slash’s Snakepit tracks, a Velvet Revolver hit, and, of course, plenty of GNR classics. The only time I had seen Slash play live was on the Guns N’ Roses and Metallica co-headlining stadium tour of 1992, where I sat about two miles from the stage, way up in the rafters of the New Orleans Superdome. So it was a real treat to see this genuine guitar hero strut his stuff up-close and personal on this new, expertly filmed, hi-definition Blu-ray concert film. Having one of my favorite new(er) singers, Myles Kennedy, fronting the band made this one extra-special, too. Check out Alter Bridge’s excellent Live From Amsterdam DVD to see more of this guy in action.

The band hits the stage running with the uptempo boogie-rocker, “Been There Lately,” from the second Slash’s Snakepit album, Ain’t Life Grand, which leads into the propulsive GNR rocker, “Night Train,” sending the already ecstatic capacity crowd into an early frenzy. The look, sound, and energy of the performance is amazing right from the start. Other early highlights include “Back To Cali,” one of the Slash tracks that Kennedy originally sang on, and a GNR song that I would have least expected them to perform, “Civil War,” from Use Your Illusion II.

When I hear the term “guitar hero” being thrown around, the iconic image of Slash — the ever-present top hat covering his mane of long, curly black hair always hanging in his face, the giant nose ring, the mirrored sunglasses, the black leather pants, and enough silver jewelry to choke a small dinosaur — is one of the first guys who comes to mind. He has the chops to back it up, too, and he has written and performed some of the most musical and fluid rock guitar solos ever laid down to tape.

Slash appears in a particularly great mood on this night, addressing the crowd several times between songs. And I think that all of the excitement leading up to the event may have enticed him to pound a few extra shots of Jack Daniels, because he sounds pretty hammered whenever he opens his mouth. His performance isn’t compromised, though, as he plays brilliantly as always.

Things only get better as the show progresses. The GNR acoustic ballad “Patience” is played on electric, as the band leads the crowd in a rapturous sing-a-long. Slash’s Godfather-themed guitar solo is as fun to watch as any of the full songs he performs, and it eventually drifts into the iconic opening riff to “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” which has never sounded sweeter than it does here.

They close out the set with a show-stopping performance of the Velvet Revolver track, “Slither,” which blows away the studio version. A three-song encore features the killer Snakepit track “By The Sword,” and two GNR monsters, “Mr. Brownstone” and “Paradise City.” It would be interesting to compare the Axl Rose-led GNR performances of these songs to Slash’s side-by-side, should Axl ever decide to release a concert DVD of his current tour. At his pace, however, we could expect one in about a decade.

The production quality of this Blu-ray is aces all around. Three audio mixes are provided, DTS Master Audio 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, and LPCM Stereo, and they all sound fantastic — the DTS one in particular. The high-def picture is nearly flawless and the camera work is superb. Lots of great camera angles are used without changing shots every second like most other concert videos do these days, and there are also plenty of great close-ups during Slash’s epic solos.

Bonus material includes interviews with Slash, Myles Kennedy, and Slash’s Uncle Ian from Stoke, who shows you around town and Slash’s childhood home. I had always just assumed that Slash’s father (Tony) was black and his mother white, but as his uncle describes, “Tony came back from London with a beautiful colored lady…and Saul.” Not exactly the most P.C. of descriptions from the old timer. An 11-page color booklet is also included that features a great essay from Malcolm Dome.

With Made in Stoke 24/7/11, you could not ask for a better debut concert film from Slash. I was a bit surprised, though, that he did not get a few of the guest singers to show up for this one show since it was being filmed, but Kennedy nevertheless does an amazing job with all of the varied styles. The concert was impeccably filmed and the band (and crowd’s) energy were both tremendous. I was always a big fan of Slash from the Guns ‘N’ Roses days — now I am just as big a fan of Slash.

Note: As of this writing, the Made in Stoke 24/7/11 Blu-ray and DVD are only available at Amazon.co.uk and not Amazon.com, where they only have the CD/bonus DVD that does not include the whole concert. Fortunately, the Amazon.co.uk version is region free and plays perfectly on my Blu-ray player here in the U.S.

Track List:
01. Been There Lately
02. Nightrain
03. Ghost
04. Mean Bone
05. Back From Cali
06. Rocket Queen

07. Civil War
08. Nothing To Say
09. Starlight
10. Promise
11. Doctor Alibi
12. Speed Parade
13. Watch This
14. Beggars & Hangers On
15. Patience
16. Godfather Solo
17. Sweet Child O’ Mine
18. Slither
– Encore –
19. By The Sword
20. Mr. Brownstone
21. Paradise City

Ratings:
Performance – 9/10
Production – 10/10

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