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Gig Review: Steel Panther + Black Stone Cherry, Melbourne, 18 June 2016

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Steel Panther + Black Stone Cherry
Festival Hall, Melbourne
18 June 2016
Review by Daniel Tucceri
Photos by John Raptis

In days of old, Festival Hall was famed for its home-grown wrestling spectacles. Every Sunday, Melburnians would watch as Jack Little commentated over colourful blokes in spandex suplexing and pile-driving their way to glory. The daredevil feats of characters like Killer Kowalski, Bulldog Brower and King Curtis made them household names for the better part of the seventies.

By the eighties, the kids lost interest and hair metal took over. Fast forward thirty years and Los Angeles quartet Steel Panther are keeping the spirit alive in the same way pro-wrestling would. There are long-haired men with spandex and funny names, like Stix Zadinia and Lexxi Foxx. There is endless banter, trash talk and base humour. It is unabashedly loud and in your face and most crucially, entertaining.

Opening act Black Stone Cherry don’t tick most of those boxes. Their brand of white-trash hard rock scrapes the bottom of the barrel with the ranks of Nickelback and Hinder. At the very least, they roll up their sleeves and make a nod to their metal roots with Ace of Spades as the finale. There is plenty of local talent miles ahead of the Kentuckians, and it’s disappointing an inspired choice of support act wasn’t made.

Before a packed Festival Hall, Steel Panther strut onstage and launch into Eyes of a Panther. From there on, the band catalogue every politically incorrect joke and hair metal cliché in the book. Most of the time, their fans roar with the kind of approval that leaves you wondering if they’re in on the joke. However, a couple of times some of the more risqué lines did receive a muted response.

When a cavalcade of women is invited to the stage, singer Michael Starr doesn’t hesitate to encourage them to bare their breasts and share an affectionate moment. Two girls happily comply, much to the approval of the crowd and the likely disapproval of feminists and their fathers. For sure, there’s a matter of personal choice involved and a great time was had by all.

That said, during Asian Hooker, they find themselves accosted by a beautiful pink-haired girl who proceeds to violate them with a twelve-foot phallus. Throughout the night, the band trade asides and take the mickey out of each other. Bassist Lexxi Foxx plays the role of Narcissus to a tee, perpetually preening himself with a cheap hand held mirror. Guitarist Satchel makes the most of his moment in the sun and shreds enthusiastically through one classic riff after another.

It wasn’t cheap to get into Festival Hall that night, but the band were well worth the price of admission. Compared to most of their contemporaries and a few of their progenitors, Steel Panther simply have the better songs. When Motley Crue visited last year for their farewell, they did their best to live up to the old days. Motley certainly weren’t the worst, but after tonight’s concert, it’s clear that Steel Panther are the best in their league.

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