It’s Saturday night and we’re rolling in a gangsta Beemer, swigging vanilla vodka out a protein shake bottle en route to Grand West.
Not exactly the most rock star situation I’ve ever been in, but alas, the Kings Of Chaos await.
The who? THE KINGS OF CHAOS, goddammit – a collection of musos who’ve sold more albums than any current Billboard brat and done more drugs than the entire Beat generation, twofold.
I’m not sure I’m mentally prepared to witness Slash’s shredding hand in action just yet. The vodka ain’t helping and neither are the multiple red wine chasers.
I’m stuck in the beer queue for Ian “MC” Bredenkamp’s intro and I rush back to GC as fast as my drinks tray will let me. I push my way to the front of the barrier where I’d laid my buddy Piet down as a space deposit and wedge my way in-between a freakishly tall prepubescent boy and a couple tonguing each other.
There’s a lot of commotion as one half of The Kings crash onto stage and into Deep Purple’s classic ‘Highway Star’. Duff McKagan (bass), Matt Sorum (drums), Dave Kushner (guitar) and my rock ‘n’ roll favourite, Gilby Clarke (guitar) are on top form from the get-go. I take a timeout to adjust to all this mayhem as vocalist Glenn Hughes surveys us from under his rose-tinted shades.
Only two tracks in and we’re treated to the most famous four note blues scale riff ever, courtesy of ‘Smoke On The Water’. Afterward, Glenn steps graciously aside, making way for a white-pimp-jacket-clad Ed Roland who belts out the Collective Soul Hits ‘Heavy’ and ‘Shine’. There’s something inexplicably charming about Ed’s performance-based demeanour and he inspires my continued sing-a-long ode. Then out steps mother flippin’ Joe Elliot. He takes the vocal reigns on ‘Animal’ and the dirty Def Leppard anthem made famous by strip clubs worldwide, ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’. Admit it, you’ve had a good grind to this song, I know I have.
We then welcome onstage Mr Myles Kennedy who brings with him some guy named Slash. Aka Saul Hudson. Aka The Gibson God. The presence of Slash is substantial as everyone kicks their performance up a notch or 5 for GNRs staples ‘Nightrain’ and ‘It’s So Easy’. Slash saunters over and parks right in front of me, so calm, so collected. I grab the boy next to me and scream “SLAAAASH” into his face. He looks like he’s going to pee in his pants.
The track ends and the lights go out. Exit stage left as sirens sound. A two minute changeover later and the lights are up, revealing a strange VH1 Unplugged-esque scene, complete with comfy couch. Matt “Mr Personality” Sorum takes a few minutes to find out how we’re doing: “How’s the Kings Of Chaos treating ‘ya? Fuck we’re a long way from home but we’re having a good time, are you having a good time?” FUCK YEAAAH. He introduces everyone. It’s personal. It’s amazing. I wanna be his friend.
He hands things over to Glenn Hughes who treats us to some woesome blues. “Oh I’ve been Mistreated, I’ve been confused…” he starts. The down tempo is a nice break from the crazy but… What. In. God’s. Name?? Glenn launches into the sickest high-pitched vocal gymnastics/screams I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing, with some super sexy reverb to boot. At 61 years old, these are pristine pipes that have been perfectly preserved. In a matter of minutes Glenn becomes the undisputed King of Chaos. Even Joe comments on Glenn’s pipes – something to the effect of, if he carries on signing like that, only one of them are going to make it back home.
En cue ‘Two Steps Behind’ and ‘The World I Know’. Eyes closed. Fists in the air. Tears down cheeks. Sing-a-long mode engaged, bitches. Myles “Where Can I Get One” Kennedy takes centre stage stepping up for ‘Fall To Pieces’ and his pitch is impeccable as he hit the chorus-high notes with power and precision. In the middle of the track Myles drops “you guys are fucking cool” and I’m inclined to agree, but Myles, you’re fucking cooler my friend.
I try fight my way closer to Gilby as he begins to belt ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ in his special Americana twang, but only spill the remainder of my wine over myself instead.
Act three and I’m back to hanging over the barrier in front of GC like a demented drunk hanging off the side of a party bus, flipping my ‘fro all over the place to ‘Burn’. Then Myles decides to tackle two Led Zeppelin tracks vocally re: ‘Communication Breakdown’ and ‘Immigrant Song’. Let’s take a second to remember that Myles isn’t even supposed to be here. Sebastian Bach was. Ain’t nobody in this house complaining.
After ‘Slither’, Queen’s ‘Tie Your Mother Down’ and Bowie’s ‘All the Young Dudes’ I pretty much have Stage 3 whiplash. The Kings end with ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ and encore things with ‘Paradise City’ at which point the 12 year old next to me springs to life.
When it’s over, they bunch together mid-stage like a band of blood brothers, slapping hands on backs, giving whole-hearted hugs. The camaraderie here is real and palpable and beautiful to witness. In unison, they take a bow and promise us that they’ll be back.
Penning an event experience has never been a problem for me up until I sat down to write this. The reason being that these bands and their music hold countless memories for me. Like that time I puked in my General Manager’s lap after I got drunk, first day on the new job. Or the time I smashed my father’s car to pieces the day before his birthday. Or that other time I got stoned in the Vatican. These memories walk hand-in-hand with these songs. That one lyric, that one riff, attached that one recollection – no matter how horrid or how beautiful – is undeniable. And that is why rock ‘n’ roll wins, every time.
These are just a Slither of mine. What are yours?
Props to Nicci Hayden for the amazing fan videos.