Friday, 4 December 2009

Duff McKagan's Loaded @ Leamington Spa

There are some bands out there, in the real world, that do not get the recognition they truly deserve. One of these unfortunate bands is Duff McKagan’s Loaded. For the anoraks among you, a very small but very bright light bulb should be getting switched on in your head.

“Duff McKagan? Wasn’t he in that band, the one with that song which had that great guitar riff?”

And the answer to that question would be yes. McKagan, one of the original members of American hard-rock band Guns N’ Roses, hit Leamington Spa last month with his new project; the aptly named Duff McKagan’s Loaded. Despite the name, this isn’t some ego-trip for McKagan. We are assured from the band’s MySpace that they are exactly that...a band! With each member having an equal contribution into the running of the band. The solidarity between the members definitely shines through when they arrive on stage.

Leamington Spa isn’t a town which hosts large, lavish, rock n’ roll gigs and this show is no exception. Just remember that good things come in small packages. With around only 500 people in attendance; it’s going to be intimate. But that doesn’t dishearten the boys. If anything, it only spurs them on to perform that little bit tighter.

The show starts promptly at 9pm. The lights go out and a deafening roar is spat out from the small but mighty crowd. After all, it’s still a rock show. Rock shows are by definition loud! The band strides proudly on stage as if they were walking out in front of a sell out Wembley crowd. McKagan takes up position centre stage; one hand in the air and one hand firmly gripping the microphone stand, “Leamington Spa! We are Loaded! And this is Sick!”

The band launch into the fierce, punk-rock inspired Sick, the type of song where you cannot help but throw your head backwards and forwards whilst thumping the air. Before the band (and crowd) has time to catch their breath, the sound of Isaac Carpenter’s pounding bass drum fills the auditorium. Executioner’s Song. A firm fan favourite. A song that combines a demonic guitar riff, sneering vocals and lyrics which cynically describe the events which occurred in the run up to the last American general election. All the ingredients required to make the perfect rock n’ roll rhapsody. The fans on the front row are still recovering from the explosive start. Even though the head-banging has temporarily ceased, Loaded carry on belting out the tunes the fans want to hear. The light-hearted pop ditty, Flatline, is played a lot heavier than how it appears on the record. However it still hangs onto its catchy chorus which gets the feet of even the most vintage rocker tapping. Between songs Loaded take a tongue-in-cheek approach to talking the audience with McKagan telling very explicit adult jokes! Duff beams from ear to ear as the audience lap up every ounce of his very black humour; even his fellow band members can’t help but let out a little giggle as their front-man destroys the image of the stereotypical rock singer!

Time to slow things down; the band begins to play the bluesy 10 Years. The old-school metal-heads towards the back of the crowd are showing their age when they start to hold their lighters up in the air; something which does not go un-noticed by a smiling McKagan, “I think you’re at the wrong show...Barry Manilow is playing tomorrow night!”

The songs which follow 10 Years gradually begin to get that bit heavier each time. The crowd know what game is being played; they are anticipating the big rock finish. And boy, do they get one! Duff switches instruments with bassist Jeff Rouse, so now he is in his trademark pose as one of rock n’ roll’s sleaziest bass players! “Leamington! Wake up! It’s So Easy!!” Before McKagan has even finished shouting down the microphone the ringing bass-line of the Guns N’ Roses classic It’s So Easy drowns out any sound which is being made by the audience! This song packs a punch and tonight everyone is going home with a black eye!
Even when McKagan isn’t playing in his usual outfit, this rock veteran knows how to put on a show that rocks just as hard as any of his previous gigs with Guns N’ Roses.

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