x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Slash is truly the cat in the top hat

The legendary guitarist impressed with a blistering performance at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.

Slash at the Dubai Tennis Stadium. Razan Alzayani / The National
Slash at the Dubai Tennis Stadium. Razan Alzayani / The National

While Kanye West's ego struggled to confine itself to the du Arena, the legendary guitarist Slash was down to earth, hanging out backstage before his performance at the Dubai Tennis Stadium.

"The first time I came here a few years ago, I just didn't know what to expect," he said, nibbling on some nuts. "It was such a different part of the world, but when I came here I was surprised by the fans and we had a great time. Now we are back."

And as well as the Guns N' Roses hits, Slash came armed with a slew of bona-fide solo crowd favourites, courtesy of last year's popular release Apocalyptic Love.

With the singer Myles Kennedy and the backing band The Conspirators in tow, Slash and friends put on a high-octane show, equally balancing rock thrills with classy musicianship.

The 23-song set was a balanced representation of his 25-year career, with the lion's share coming from his latest solo release.

Kicking off with the rousing Halo, the cat in the top hat let his guitar and his feet do the talking as he danced on stage, coaxing out those trademark filthy riffs.

However, the second track went right back to the past: a storming performance of Nightrain by the Gunners, with Kennedy doing a serviceable job on the vocals.

The singer felt most at home, understandably, on the Apocalyptic Love tracks, especially on the anthemic Starlight and the barrelling You're a Lie. However, while Kennedy's vocals were technically first rate, they lacked some of Axl Rose's sleaze on Rocket Queen and Scott Weiland's venom on Velvet Revolver's Slither.

The Conspirators proved to be a tight backing band, with the bassist Todd Kearns also taking on lead vocals for the punky Dr Alibi.

Despite the chemistry, the band knew this was a Slash concert and the group dutifully pulled back to allow the guitarist to come centre stage to deliver those many blistering solos, which had the crowd on their feet.

The show's major talking point came during the encore, when Kennedy announced a surprise guest. After a few leisurely rounds of golf, Alice Cooper found the time to don his trademark leather jacket and eyeliner to join the boys for a raucous version of School's Out. It was a truly joyous moment, something unexpected by a crowd used to seeing musicians use the UAE as warm-up gigs before European or Asian treks.

Slash's performance felt genuine and real, kind of like the man himself.

Watch Arts&Life for our backstage interview with Slash