With some reluctance about sitting in traffic for the hour and half trip, I set out with few expectations to see Velvet Revolver ("VR") play the Rockford Metro Centre on Friday night, 4/29/05. Like many others, it's hard for me not to think about Guns 'N Roses or Stone Temple Pilots when Velvet Revolver is mentioned. But I headed off to the show with an open mind and hoped for the best. When Duff McKagan took the stage and exclaimed that Velvet Revolver was there to "Put the Rock back in Rockford", I had a feeling it would be a fun night.
The main floor was general admission and there were a few thousand rowdy fans. Much to the delight of many men in the audience, a dozen or so women held an impromptu contest to see who could garner the largest applause for raising their shirts. Beers were sprayed and thrown, a small fight broke out, and then VR began to play.
They began with Sucker Train Blues and then Do It For The Kids. The energy Velvet Revolver brought to the Metro Center was impressive and contagious. Scott Weiland showed why he is the consummate frontman. I was awed by the effort he put forth while moving over every inch of the stage, leaning into the crowd and leading the fans through the Velvet Revolver experience. Shirtless and sweaty, Weiland connected with the audience as he belted out every song. I can not think back to a lead singer who made a bigger effort to engage every member of the audience like Weiland did Friday night.
Slash blasted through riff after riff and lived up to everything I expected. As good as Fall to Pieces sounds on the Contraband CD, Velvet Revolver made it sound even better live. Weiland's vocals and theatrics combined with Slash's guitar, Duff's bass and Matt Sorum drumming brought the song to life in Rockford.
During Sex Type Thing, Weiland became a man of the people and walked out in the stadium, journeying halfway back and twenty rows up into the crowd. Seeing him standing in the middle of a mezzanine section singing the song and being with the fans was quite a strange but enjoyable sight. After making his way back to the stage and starting Set Me Free, it appeared like an inebriated fan threw a beer on him and he went into the audience after the person. Duff looked ready to join the fray, but the police and a little pepper spray did the trick.
For the first encore, Slash donned his trademark top hat and hit the stage with a double neck guitar for an incredible, slow moving run through of Pink Flyod's Wish You Were Here. Moments like that illustrate just how talented and versatile Slash really is with his guitar. Later when one of Slash's strings broke just before a solo, something that might make lesser guitarists run for a new guitar, Slash effortlessly improvised and played around the missing string without the slightest hesitation.
The second encore produced the high point of the evening for me. Rockford hometown rockers Bun E. Carlos and Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick joined VR on stage for a pounding performance of Cheap Trick's Surrender. Matt Sorum gave up his drums to Carlos to anchor the band. Reminiscent of the 1979 "Live at Budokan" rendition, Velvet Revolver with Carlos and Nielsen had the Rockford crowd in a partying frenzy at the Metro Centre.
Velvet closed out the evening with the Guns 'N Roses standard, Mr. Brownstone followed by Slash grabbing a fan's lighter and playing slide guitar with it on an inspired version of Slither.
The band played for close to two hours, although they only played seventeen songs. I enjoyed seeing Velvet Revolver take over the Metro Center for the evening. I know it wasn't a GNR concert, but I would love to have seen them play a couple more GNR hits. I guess maybe that's a selfish request and those days are long gone. This evening wasn't for looking back to the past, it was for enjoying the present with Velvet Revolver and they did not disappoint.
With single seat ticket prices for major acts on tour this summer ranging from $165 - $450, getting to see Velvet Revolver perform for less than $50 is a bargain not to be missed. If they come to a town near you, make the effort to go see Velvet Revolver. With so many bands today playing perfectly rehearsed but stale shows with stagnant set lists and canned theatrics, this show's energy was invigorating. You'll get your money's worth and when the evening is over, you'll be musically refreshed knowing that rock 'n roll is still alive - as sweaty, rowdy, loud and uplifting as ever. As Duff predicted, they really did put the rock back into Rockford.
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