Review: Steel Panther/ Winger – O2 Academy, Bristol

O2 Academy, Bristol
21st May 2023

Review and photos – Rob Wilkins

Another year, another Steel Panther UK tour! Looking back, for the last five years at least there are reviews stating that “the joke is wearing thin” and that “it’s time to give it a rest”, yet, when I arrive at the O2, the queue snakes around the City, there isn’t a ticket to be had and the crowd is full of Lycra, big hair and spandex. Clearly, nobody has told either the band or the crowd that they are no longer relevant!

What those reviews and commentators miss is that sometimes you just want to block out the politics, deeply depressing news, sterility of much of the modern rock scene, and economic climate and have a bloody good time. It is escapism pure and simple. So why try to see it as anything other just to show your creds as a serious journalist?

Supporting tonight are one of the bands that probably had an influence on Steel Panther way back, when Winger were formed. Performing with their original lineup after so long and apparently having such a great time of it is truly a credit. I will admit that they are a band that has somehow passed me by, but by the end of the first song “Can’t Get Enuff” I am already a fan. Led from the front by Kip Winger on bass and vocals, more than ably supported by the melodic guitars and keys of Reb Beach, Paul Taylor, and John Roth the sound is full and succulent and gets a great reaction from the crowd.

In a breakneck set that rarely pauses they manage to cram in eleven songs, almost as many as Steep Panther’s headline set! Highlights of the set were a superb solo spot by Beach, Michael Starr’s appearance for “Headed for a Heartbreak” and the singalong set closer “Madalaine”

A brief break and the lights go down for Steel Panther to take the stage, Satchel pulling some superb shapes in silhouette as he waits for Starr to take his mark before the band explodes into (of course) “Eyes of a Panther”. In the photo pit, it is hard to know where to look as Satchel and Starr are everywhere, not standing still for a second. New bassist Spyder and drummer Stix lay down a rhythm other bands would kill for and before we know it we are into “Let Me Cum In’. After two songs we leave the pit as the band intros take place. For TEN minutes! Now this would be awkward if it wasn’t genuinely very amusing, with some smut, Stix’ impression of Rick Allen, Spyder distributing drug-filled “gummies” and Satchel and Starr roasting each other mercilessly.

We are soon back to the essence of Steel Panther though as “Asian Hooker’ accompanied by a gyrating and exhibitionist dancer is ripped out. After “All I Wanna Do Is Fuck (Myself Tonight)”, Satchel delights in telling the crowd that “The Burden of Being Wonderful” is almost 50% live, speedily followed by “Friends With Benefits” and a guitar solo that showed that whilst the live act is about the image, there are some seriously gifted musicians onstage making it look easy!

“Death to All but Metal” has the crowd going crazy before new track “1987”, a tribute to pretty much everything the band and crowd stand for, is debuted. Satchel, almost introspectively, tells the audience that journalists say that the band are stuck in a rut, but that they have just played a new song, will play another next; “Ain’t Dead Yet” (with Starr on acoustic guitar, Stix on keys and Spyder on phone light) and for a third new item Starr will perform a biologically challenging act of self-pleasure on himself for the first time live on stage. A young lady is plucked from the audience and is quizzed as to her name “Peyton” and age “19”, and we are back to the vaudeville of each band member “improvising” a song about her in turn. It’s fun and silly and a real audience pleaser that leads into “Girl From Oklahoma” seamlessly.

Peyton is joined on stage by what appears to be half the crowd and it is amusing to see the band trying to avoid some of the more “enthusiastic” audience members taking the opportunity to get close to them as they play “Community Property” and “Party All Day (Fuck All Night)”. Finally, the stage is cleared (NOT an easy task) for the last song of the evening “Gloryhole” and a very happy and entertained crowd leaves into the Bristol evening.

All current Steel Panther live dates can be found here.

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