Shredding for Jakarta

As published in The Jakarta Post
Sun, August 8 2010

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Saul “Slash” Hudson (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

After more than 30 years in the music business, Saul “Slash” Hudson — the former guitarist of hard rock band Guns N’ Roses and one of the best guitarists in the business — came to town earlier this week, rocking crowds in Jakarta with a long-anticipated performance.

Featuring Myles Kennedy, the lead singer of the Southern rock band Alter Bridge, the concert was Slash’s second gig in the country after performing in Surabaya on June 31. Slash would have probably liked to have landed in Bali first and then gone to Surabaya before turning up for a performance in Jakarta.

The scene was familiar: throngs of the metal militia clad in black T-shirts crowded the Istora Senayan at the Bung Karno Sporting Complex in Senayan, Central Jakarta. At first there were probably only 1,500 people, but soon the number swelled to more than 5,000 fans in the jam-packed venue.

For the Jakarta show, promoter Mahaka Entertainment set up a VIP lounge in hopes that big names in the local music industry would make an appearance at the concert.

It also rolled out the red carpet for local rock stars such as Candil (formerly of the band Seurieus), John Paul Ivan (formerly of Boomerang band), Abdee Negara of Slank and Baron of Baron & Soulmate band — all of whom were influenced by Slash.

Three hours before the show, the crowd went wild when they tried to storm the stage, trying to get the best spot for a closer look of their hero. Some of the fans —  wearing Slash-printed tees and top hats —  shrieked their way on to the stage. Early in the evening, these fans had to bear with six songs performed by an ensemble of local guitar heroes who were warming up the crowd.

At about 8:30 p.m. the stage went dark and the spotlights came on, heralding the arrival of Slash. A booming voice called out, “Hello Jakarta, are you ready to rock?” This is how Kennedy greeted anxious fans before launching a rendition of the song Ghost, the opening track of Slash’s latest album, which was released last April 6.

As for Slash, nothing changes much. He put on his trademark top hat over long unkempt hair, aviator glasses, sneakers, leather pants with scarf on its back and sleeveless grey shirt. The only thing that was absent was a cigarette in his mouth.

For the Jakarta gig, Slash assembled a band of skilled musicians including rhythm guitarist Bobby Schneck, a session man for Weezer, Greenday, Slash’s Blues Ball and Aerosmith; bassist Todd Kerns, who had a stint with Age of Electric, Static in Stereo and Sin City Sinners and drummer Brent Fitz who has worked with Alice Cooper and Vince Neil.

Soon after Ghost, Slash and his band performed Mean Bone, Night Train and Dirty Little Thing —  tunes more familiar to fans of Velvet Revolver, a super-group he formed with fellow Gunners Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum.

During the performance of Back from Cali, Slash and Kennedy sent fans into frenzy when they engaged in call and response stage antics —  Slash using his Gibson Les Paul and Kennedy using his voice to respond to Slash’s guitar shredding.

After the hard-rocking opening set, Slash cooled down by performing Beggars and Hangers of It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere album, a blues-leaning tune with a country-ish melody that prompted  massive hand-waving and sing-along.

“We’re glad with your enthusiasm tonight and really appreciate it. The next song is legendary and you all remember it from Guns N’ Roses…” Kennedy said to the ecstatic crowd before launching what turned out to be Civil War. Opening the track, Slash held his guitar straight up and played the bottom keys —  his signature guitar-playing style.

Next in line were tunes such as Rocket Queen, Fall to Pieces and Suckertrain Blues. And after a brief calm, the crowd went wild again during the performance of Nothing to Say when Kennedy and Slash played dueling guitars with the latter messing with his pedal and playing it close to the monitor, resulting in a feedback-laden performance.

For Starlight, Kennedy asked the fans to light up and this slow rock, blues-heavy tunes turned the venue into a huge “ballroom hall” with people waving hands. Slash followed it up by performing his best trick that night.

“Watch this!” said Slash, before abusing his guitar with his finger tapping-and-shredding technique continued with guitar solo of Stranger in Paradise — The Godfather film’s theme song. And thousands of fans who believed that rock and roll is a matter of technical prowess gave him wolf-whistles, yeahs and woo-woos. No vocal, no other instrument sounds; just Slash and his Gibson. It was a pure Slash moment.

The climax of the show was when Slash gave away that now (in)famous lick opener for Sweet Child O’Mine of Guns N’ Roses debut album. For this song, Kennedy left his singing duties to the audience, smiling and pointing his microphone towards the crowd. And after two more songs, Rise Today and Slither, Slash and his band walked off the stage.

After the obligatory “We want more!” plea as the encore, the band triumphantly returned to the stage and Slash was back shirtless. Before delivering his performance of By the Sword he even teased the audience by saying: “You know what, you guys are crazy! I like that!”

After the closing song Paradise City — during which fans stood up, sung together and punched their fists in the air — fans honored Slash with thundering round of applause while shouting “Slash, you’re rock!” and “We love you!”. Slash and the band left and fans had to scramble for drumsticks and guitar picks thrown from the stage.

More than those mementoes, fans got whatever they wanted from Slash.

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