Dubuque (and more specifically the Mississippi Moon Bar heretofore referred to as MMB) has been host to a cornucopia of music acts in the very near past and each of them has been so varied that they really break any and all ideas of what music might be played within the borders of said region. Okay in less confusing terms; "The MMB is a diverse venue." Yes, yes I know that would have been the simpler way to say that but the reason for the long description is actually probably the best.
The MMB has amazed me at the acts it has brought into the area and the diversity is something of real skill. The quality of acts only appears to get better each passing month with some interesting names attached to the days of the months. The MMB has had acts ranging from an "American Idol" (Jordin Sparks) to '70's icons (The Sweet) to hair metal stalwarts (Bret Michaels) and it is blatantly obvious they aren't slowing down in the endeavor. I would guess that "the word is out" about the venue and its quite ravenous fans, so as acts begin to talk about little Dubuque, Iowa and performing there, it doesn't sound like a miniscule place where acts go to die.
Without question the likes of Michaels, Skid Row, Stephen Pearcy, Warrant, Jackyl and Pat Benatar have helped the reputation of the MMB. What is so interesting is that so many of these bands either want to OR have returned to the Dubuque stage. Any band that decides to make the trek will draw into the acts before them and my guess would be to rave reviews. Why wouldn't they do so, the venue is ideal for any act that wants to be exposed to fans that know their music and those that provide such energy that bands look like they have had every bit of their talent drained from them after they walk off stage. It would be surprising if a band didn't give 110% but honestly it is always a fear. When Pat Benatar saw the venue she made a remark about the MMB being "cozy" but by then end she remarked how crazy everyone there really was.
The area has had so many great acts over the past eons (okay not eons, but a really long time) so imagine the immediate and obvious giddiness when I heard that another member of Guns N' Roses fame was coming to the MMB (Steven Adler was there last year). With Adler out of the equation, the person it had to be definitely wasn't Mr. Rose, nope not by a long shot, this GN'R alum was Slash. Yes, the top hat wearing, cigarette smoking, Les Paul playing Slash.
On the seventh day of August, 2012 Dubuque, Iowa and the Mississippi Moon Bar (inside the Diamond Jo Casino) hosted Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators and I'm fairly confident many in the crowd had no idea about what was going to happen either. No not because something bad would happen if Slash appeared on the stage, but rather how many in Iowa would have any idea about any of Slash's solo material? That was a rhetorical question and if you agreed with that assertion well Mister Man you best go to the beginning of this blog and start reading from Day One of my posts because the people in the Dubuque area know their music.
There is a small confession I must make, I really like the "no opening act" thing that so many venues have seemed to adopt BUT there is really no need to NOT book opening acts, in fact forget I said anything. The rationale behind that train of out loud thought was that the main act can start a little later or even the fact that the crowd gets out earlier (thank goodness because some of the old fogies might have a fall in the parking lot and break a hip and if its early enough, someone might be able to find them out there). Last year I was able to see Slash (feat. Myles Kennedy) on Valentine's Day (opening for Ozzy) and I was blown away by the show. That show was at a large venue so imagine how excited I was with the appearance at the MMB.
With a buzz in my ear (yes I'm losing my hearing but this buzz was about the show to come) I watched the anticipation on the faces of the people in the crowd. Seeing the look in so many different eyes it was like they were participating in the "Running of the Bulls". There was nervousness, there was trepidation, there was anxiety and there was excitement and when the lights went down, there was pandemonium (yes I know pandemonium isn't the best phrasing but it sounds better than "giddy"). The anticipation of the arrival of the band on stage was paled in comparison by the simple act of walking on stage.
With a raucous roar and mind blowing volume the band arrived and milliseconds later every ENT doctor within 50 miles giggled with uncontrollable laughter as they dialed realtors worldwide in search of their new vacation home. As the screaming guitars opened up an exceptionally hard version "Halo" was unleashed. When Slash himself entered the stage I seriously think the crowd drowned the entire song out and I really think that it took the band aback somewhat. Its understandable honestly as this band and Slash obviously have played much, MUCH bigger venues but I doubt many had a crowd like this one.
Before the show started I sat their scribbling some notes when a person from the crowd got my attention and asked me if I thought they would play any Guns 'N' Roses songs because he didn't know much of Slash's solo music (he was probably one of the six people that didn't) and I reassured him that indeed there would be. Thankfully that slightly inebriated gentlemen didn't have to wait for long as the second song was a GN'R classic, "Nightrain". This is the part of the program where I anger some because I will tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that the vocals of Myles Kennedy make that GN'R song (all of them actually) better. Kennedy's voice really seems to bring something different to the table that I really can't put my finger on but in my (humble) opinion it is better.
With Slash's guitar behind any song it becomes apparent quickly that ANY song is better, but GN'R was made by the musicians and not the lead vocalist. Slash really is one of an incredibly short list of the "greatest guitar players of today" as well as one of the best EVER. With that in mind Kennedy makes this band that much better, hands down. With a new album, "Apocalyptic Love", the symbiotic relationship of Kennedy's vocals and Slash's guitar it becomes as obvious as a shovel to the head, but in a good way. Yes I know that the duo did play together (on two songs actually) on Slash's first album "Slash" but the new album highlights how good they are together.
His setlist is a thing of beauty when I think about it now as the hat wearing phenom incorporated material from GN'R, Slash's Snakepit, and Velvet Revolver. The combined catalog of music of his is unbelievable and incredibly I hadn't heard some of it in ages but it made me dig it out and listen. That really is a testament to Slash if I'm being honest, the catalog is so extensive that when something is released it just absorbs my attention. With the new album "Apocalyptic Love", Slash and his band have done just that. As the new music was interwoven between the previous releases I was blown away (the song "Not For Me" is freaking phenomenal).
The band itself is perfect and oh so gifted. Todd Kerns and his bass guitar but me in the mindset of the one and only Lemmy (Motorhead obviously). He has the energy of a nuclear power plant but there is another part to Kerns that I didn't expect, his vocals. Kerns sang two songs, just two and they just flat out killed. On Slash's self-titled album Slash teamed up with Lemmy on the song "Doctor Alibi", that song was just flat out great and when Kerns took the reigns of the song he just blew it out of the water. I would LOVE to hear the band record this in the studio with Kerns on vocals (if anyone out there in cyberland can convince them to do so, PLEASE do it). What Kerns sang next I have to admit surprised me because it really is a staple of GN'R and I might add is a song of paranoia and anger, "Out Ta Get Me".
As the band broke into "Out Ta Get Me" I perked up like Nancy Pelosi's eyebrows after Botox. I always thought that the vocals of one Mr. Rose fit the song because of its punk like tone (all scratchy and gravelly) and Kerns took that song and made it his own. What a version (this one too should be recorded and released). Generally when I write I like to listen to the music of the band performing that song but every single version on YouTube is like listening to a cat sliding down a chalkboard (the quality was terrible) so that is the reason for the beg. Despite that, Kerns is the consummate performer and he is a beast not to mention one huge part of the band. He's incredible. Just plain incredible.
The ability of Slash to get musicians of the caliber of those he has had in the past and today is a testament to the man himself. To prove that point, Slash hasn't only aligned himself with Kennedy and Kerns but also with Brent Fritz (drums) and Frank Sidoris (guitar) and they are spectacular. Fritz is a drumming machine (drummer that is the drumming machine would be a Def Leppard thing). He too is full of energy and just as importantly is gifted as is Sidoris, what great performers.
With the release of the album "Apocalyptic Love" Slash released a piece of music that is without description and without competition, it is simply the best album of the year and should be looked at as a cornerstone for this iteration of the band. I have proof that the album is that good, the album has been nominated for the 2012 Classic Rock Album of the Year (see I told you). "Apocalyptic Love" really should be in your collection of music. The skill of the band and the man, Slash himself, proof once again that they are to be considered in the upper echelon of rock.
August 7th, 2012 began as a quiet, peaceful day in Dubuque, Iowa but as the day turned into night the tension was palpable. As the clock ticked every second that passed seemed like an hour, and the Mississippi Moon Bar was ready to make the sleepy little town one loud little beast. With the help of Slash (feat. Myles Kennedy) and the Conspirators the heavens shook (maybe not the heavens but definitely some gamblers). On the bands Facebook page, Slash said of Dubuque "Dubuque, Iowa was the most intimate show of the tour; very up close & personal. Great vibe from the crowd. Good time. iiii]; )' ". Well said and it was absolutely 100% accurate. The MMB only attracts the BEST bands and the BEST fans! Great job by the MMB and even better job by Slash, Myles and the Conspirators (Todd, Brent and Frank)! I can't WAIT for this bands return!
Amazing. Simply amazing!