Steel Panther have done for music what Donald Trump has for America: make it great again.
With rocket-fuel party anthems, they’ve not just restored widdly-widdly guitar solos, anthemic keyboard melodies, and booming drums to their rightful place in the rock pantheon, they’ve completely undermined the bleeding heart establishment who feel the need to explore such trivialities as socio-economic injustice and the effects of climate change.
With subtlety and restraint to rival ‘80s masterpiece Every Rose Has Its Thorn, they’ve single-handedly resurrected the long-lost art of crafting the perfect lighter-waving, heart-breaking power ballad.
And with straight-talking lyrics like “Find a geisha girl/ I take her for a whirl/ Wrap her tuna roll on my dick” they’ve brought off-hand racism and casual misogyny back where it rightfully belongs: on radio and MTV.
On stage, they’re no less heroic, righting the wrongs of the political correctness police, effortlessly laying waste to the ideals of Generation Snowflake with its trigger warnings and social justice campaigns. During songs like Stripper Girl, they haul ladies from the audience up on stage to dance around them (and fittingly strip down to their bras). They make fun of that sissy boy Kurt Cobain. They invite a chaste young woman up to be serenaded by the tender Girl From Oklahoma and its respectful plea of “So come on pretty baby/ Suck my balls all night”.
Within the band, everything’s also clearly as it should be. The drummer’s dumb. The preening bassist has a chip on his shoulder the size of his bouffant, which he checks and maintains with a precision that’s somewhat lacking from his playing.
The hired-gun front man is just there because he can sing, twirl, and wave a scarf-adorned mic stand above his head; is able to engage the audience with small talk about Ferraris, blow, and backstage poundings; and he looks OK in spandex.
And the egomaniacal lead guitarist is clearly the band’s creative and business mastermind, a position he relishes by laying into his roadie, band mates/employees, and even the audience.
Judging by the number of David St Hubbins wigs and hair bands on display in the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, that audience are (hopefully) all in on the joke. There’s unhinged laughter as the men on stage turn their Spinal Tap schtick all the way up to 11. There’s joyous singing along to especially the most X-rated lyrics. There’s wild cheering (both when the arrogant axeman demands it and when the band launch into each successive track of their debut album, Feel The Steel, played in full tonight.) And there’s spontaneous moshing as they shred and wail their way through big-balled beasts like Death To All But Metal.
The fact that any of this happens is totally down to the band and their conviction. By channeling not just the personas but the hits of groups like Van Halen and Bon Jovi, they’ve come up with a show that honours and takes the piss in equal measure. Without songs as catchy as the clap and the musical talent to pull them off, Steel Panther would be like a new Poison album: a total joke.
Words by Nils Van Der Linden. Photography by Simon Reed. Steel Panther at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on 22nd January 2018.
Simon has his own music photography site here: http://www.musicalpictures.co.uk