There is just no good reason to beat around the bush with metaphorical meanderings regarding Slash's double-disc "Live: Made in Stoke 24/7/11". It is one red-hot, ass-kickin' live album of mostly Slash solo and SNAKEPIT songs, and GUNS N ROSES classics. Guitar hero Slash, vocalist Myles Kennedy (ALTER BRIDGE), bassist/backing vocalist (and in one case lead vocalist) Todd Kerns, drummer Brent Fitz, and guitarist/backing vocalist Bobby Schneck captured lightning in a bottle and let it loose on the frenzied audience at Victoria Hall in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, the town in which the top hatter spent the very early years of his life after being born in London and before moving to Los Angeles.
You'll find more on the story behind the performance and observations from Slash about the ace players (ones he considers partners) with which he shared the stage in the liner notes penned by Malcolm Dome. But the real story begging to be told is how the high voltage performance of these 21 tracks (including the wickedly electric "Godfather Solo") puts what passes for most live albums these days to shame, though there has been a handful of exceptional ones this year. What otherwise might be considered clichés are at the very least apt descriptions of "Live: Made in Stoke 24/7/11". The band was greater the sum of its parts; the performers and audience members became one, each feeding off the other's energy (talk about synergy!); and the performance was a magical one that could never be replicated. We might as well throw that whole thing about the stars aligning in there too.
It is amazing how well all of these songs from different Slash eras and albums fit so well together from the first notes of "Been there Lately" to the final ones of the exceptionally crowd pleasing "Paradise City". The only possible caveat might be that VELVET REVOLVER's "Slither" — great tune that it is — is the one place where a ripple is felt in the overall flow; it doesn't quite fit as snugly as the rest. In any case, equally amazing is that the album doesn't sound like a pre-packaged "greatest hits live" affair. It just sounds like five guys playing their asses off and having the time of their lives, much like an audience reaction that represents the unmistakable sound of fans experiencing a once-in-a lifetime event. All the players deserve big props here, not the least of which is Slash who rips it right out and lays it on the table. Yet Myles Kennedy sings these songs like they were his very own; never straying too far from the style heard on the originals, yet freshening up each one with a dose of his own personality. Top hats got off to Kerns too for his blazing lead vocals on one of the most righteously rocking songs of the show in "Doctor Alibi". It is a beast! But hell, the moments of righteousness are many here when you've got tunes like "Mean Bone", "Speed Parade" (the furious solo section will in fact melt your face), "Nothing to Say" (see previous face melting comment), and the sizzling "Back from Cali". And yes, the GUNS N' ROSES tunes sound great, too ("Rocket Queen" and "Civil War" in particular). Classic status aside, when heard as part of this set those tunes never really feel any more important to the gig than any other ones.
The bottom line is that everything clicks on "Live: Made in Stoke 24/7/11", which is also available as a special edition 2CD+DVD package. This one is about the capturing of a special moment in time that can never be forgotten. Oh right, almost forgot; the band was firing on all cylinders too! Yep, it's just that kind of live album. Now go get it.