Brisbane waited a long time for this show, and it was one hell of a ride the whole way through. Words by Samantha Wolstenholme, Photos by Amanda Brenchley
They say the show must go on in showbiz, and thanks to the mammoth effort of promoters MJR Presents, the long-awaited, much-rescheduled return to Brisbane of hard rock’s outrageous bad boys Steel Panther is finally going ahead tonight. After two years of multiple date changes, co-headliners Sevendust being replaced, and NZ’s Devilskin also unexpectedly dropping off the lineup at the last minute, not even the threat of flash flooding could stop this sensational sold-out spectacle at Eatons Hill Ballroom tonight. It’s a whittled-down lineup, but all four remaining bands are (in)famous for their party antics, especially the headlining act, who are going to add a whole new meaning to the phrase “balls-to-the-wall” rock’n’roll.
Brisbane’s party pirates Lagerstein are the perfect opening act for a night of unbridled debauchery from start to finish. As punters begin to fill the Ballroom, the pirate metallers burst onto the stage with their classic opener “Raise Your Steins”, and they are in fine form tonight, delivering a tight and energetic set bolstered by a particularly crisp and balanced live mix. By the second song there’s already a mosh breaking out, and beloved mascot the Party Parrot appears during the fun and frenzied “Drink the Rum”, jumping right into the mosh shortly after this and roaming around in there for the rest of the set to keep the crowd hyped up. Before “Shoey Song”, Captain Gregarrr declares that the Aussies are going to show the Americans how to party, and sure enough, the pirates power through a joyful catalogue of their greatest hits with full steam, inciting chanting, crowdsurfing and general mayhem from the growing crowd of dedicated fans and unacquainted yet entertained newcomers. If anyone can get a party well and truly started, with catchy karaoke-worthy melodies and toe-tapping riffs to boot, it’s Lagerstein.
Sydney punk rockers Bare Bones are up next, and even though they are a bassist down tonight, the remaining three members deliver a surprisingly gutsy sound and a powerful performance. After the 7-piece band that preceded them, it’s quite a contrast to see just the three Bare Bones lads on the sizable Ballroom stage, but they do a fine job in claiming that space and commanding the crowd’s attention. Guitarist James Dean wows us all with his impressive chops in both chunky, punchy riffs and lightning lead licks, and frontman Tom Kennedy raises the roof with roaring harsh vocals that lend a distinctly hardcore edge to the band’s punk sound. It’s like Pantera meets Bring Me The Horizon with a Limp Bizkit flavour thrown in for extra attitude. The collaborative efforts of Dean and drummer Chris Blancato produce some driving grooves that resonate thunderously through the room, and when there are breakdowns, these crash in with a palpable intensity. Just a few songs in, and there’s an excellent crowd response; the band reignites the mosh as they charge through a tight, razor sharp set.
However, not even the energy of the previous performances could prepare us for the absolute hurricane that is Airbourne’s set tonight. The rockers explode onto the stage with all the energy of athletes on steroids, launching into their aptly titled opener Ready to Rock. The Ballroom is completely packed out now, and the hype level rises even higher as a circle pit breaks out straight off the bat. The band are somehow instantly sweaty, but that adds to the authentic rock’n’roll experience they create that captures the whole room. Coming in hot with their signature sound that echoes the rock heyday of Guns’N’Roses and ACDC, Airbourne blaze through their best-loved hits like “Girls In Black” and “Back In The Game”, and I’ve never seen a band go this hard and rock out this much on stage - it’s electrifying to watch. Frontman Joel O’Keeffe is in a league of his own on both guitars and vocals, shredding with as much gusto as he sings. You really can’t beat the impressive spectacle of O’Keeffe shredding while essentially crowdsurfing in the middle of the mosh. And with his brazenly ocker banter to entertain the crowd, he’s every bit the Aussie rock legend.
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After a touching moment where O’Keeffe pours out some JD on stage in tribute to the late and great Lemmy, bangers like “It’s All For Rock’n’Roll”, “Living It Up” and “Running Wild” get the circle pit expanding further and further until it becomes a vortex of feral energy that takes over the room. Madness erupts when O’Keeffe announces that “within these four walls, outside laws don’t apply, because we’re in the world of rock’n’roll”, and then throws drinks straight into the wild circle pit. The rockers end their fantastic set in a metaphorical blaze of glory, showing us that old-school rock’n’roll is very much alive and well, and leaving us more than adequately warmed up for the craziness to ensue in the headlining set.
Finally, it’s time for the shameless showmen themselves to dial the vulgarity up several notches and take us on a hilariously obscene odyssey into the 80s glam rock world. If there was ever a musical epitome and personification of the term “NSFW”, well kids, Steel Panther’s tunes and performance would take that cake. It’s fitting that they open with “Goin’ in the Backdoor”, because instantly we take a turn into rockstar heaven where filters don’t apply and the partying never ever stops.
We’re only a couple of songs in when the band stop to carry on some lengthy and lewd banter that lasts even longer than the songs that preceded them, and only Steel Panther can make banter about venereal disease light, entertaining and side-splittingly funny. It’s clear they absolutely love to push the envelope and be as controversial as possible - case in point, hits like “Asian Hooker” and “Poontang Boomerang”. The crowd are ecstatically singing along to every explicit lyric and lapping up the sex, drugs, rock’n’roll manifesto that’s playing out before them. Musically, there are some fantastic moments involving Satchel and new bassist Spyder shredding together during “All I Wanna Do Is Fuck (Myself Tonight)”, as well as the band’s note-perfect cover of “Crazy Train” - not to mention Michael Starr’s excellent impression of Ozzy. Satchel also shows off his guitar wizardry with a lightning shred solo after “Crazy Train”.
In “Weenie Ride”, romantic ballads are turned on their head as each member of the band serenades a lucky lady from the audience with the filthiest lyrics imaginable. Shoutout to Bella who takes it like a champ. Then a whole bunch of women from the crowd have an epic rave on stage to “17 Girls in a Row” and “Party Like Tomorrow Is The End of the World”. At this point, the vibe in the room is nothing short of loose, wild and free - everyone is just having the time of their lives moshing along to endless dick jokes made into insanely catchy songs. After ostensibly wrapping up with “Death to All But Metal”, the glam rockers return for a final dirty hurrah with two encore numbers in “Community Property” and the truly unforgettable (no matter how hard you try), “Gloryhole”. Brisbane waited a long time for this show, and it was one hell of a ride the whole way through.