Outside the Manchester Academy on Friday night an unusual spectacle of hundreds of Mancunians dressed in spandex leggings, leather jackets and 80s wigs awaited glam rockers Steel Panther.
After an amazing reaction from crowds during their support slot for Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard in November, Steel Panther returned to the UK to tour their new album Balls Out and Manchester fans were more than happy to have them.
The Californian 80s glam-metal parody band was signed to Republic Records in 2008, releasing their first single ‘Death to All but Metal’ on iTunes in January 2009.
They quickly became known in the UK and across the world for their outrageous lyrics, hilarious on-stage personas and fantastic musical ability. Often compared to The Darkness, they combine metal songs with Spinal Tap humour.
The band comprises of four personalities. Lead singer, Michael Starr (often described as ‘a chubby David Lee Roth’ by his band mates), guitarist Satchel, pretty but vacant bassist Lexxi Foxxx and drummer Stix Zadina.
Having finished touring the rest of Europe, Steel Panther arrived in England on March 26 to play just four venues across the UK.
Manchester Academy was completely packed, unsurprising as every date of the UK tour sold out within weeks.
People of all ages squashed as close to the front as physically possible, everyone craning around the giant hairstyle of the person in front, wanting the best view for when Panther hit the stage.
When they pranced out on time at 9pm, it became clear why. This band is as much about the physical performance as they are about the music.
They launched into a choreographed routine, heavily parodying the likes of Aerosmith, Motley Cru and Def Leppard. Michael Starr mimed profanities to the female fans and Satchel and Lexxi hopped across the stage in unison.
Panther have the perfect formula for their brand of fun glam rock songs. Each one has a catchy riff and a memorable vocal melody coupled with lyrics that make you grin.
Although on the surface the content of the songs seems juvenile (and, on occasion, unflinchingly un-PC) they also manage to be clever, intricate and structured with perfect comedic timing.
They opened with songs from their new album Balls Out, ‘Supersonic Sex Machine’ and ‘Tomorrow Night’, before launching into favourites from their last album.
The band then took a moment to formally introduce themselves with Satchel describing Starr as ‘one the best singers… we could find on Facebook’.
The key to Steel Panther’s ever growing success is that despite the comedy of the lyrics and on-stage performance they are validated as a band by their genuinely outstanding musical talent.
Starr has the ability to hit high notes clearly and at perfect pitch, while jumping around the stage with the energy of a much younger man. As Satchel joked: “The man’s had two hip surgeries, seven liposuction operations and dozens of botox injections.”
Satchel had chance to showcase his guitar trickery in his mid-show solo, in which he played a version of ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ and gave an unbelievably fast two-finger-tapping performance.
Drummer Stix doubled as pianist for the ballads and Lexxi’s ability to simultaneously stare at himself in a glittery handheld mirror and keep in time was strangely impressive.
The crowd lapped it up, screaming, dancing and singing throughout. Starr pulled ten girls on stage for the last two songs, closing on ‘Death to All but Metal’.
The band left the crowd in no doubt; it won’t be long before Steel Panther are as famous as the Crüe themselves.
They’re on a steep curve to mega-stardom in the rock world; they’ve already added dates in November, playing much bigger capacity venues across more locations in the UK.
If you’re easily offended, Steel Panther probably aren’t the band for you, but there’s much more to them than big hair and innuendos.
Those who appreciate the glam metal scene for what it is will understand the way in which Steel Panther parody it, to a level that, more often than not, outshines the bands they’re emulating.
It’s not just about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll for this band; it’s clever, well choreographed and above all, it’s about virtuoso song writing and performance.
The Jezabels are a long way from home. The Sydney four-piece played the Ruby Lounge in Manchester last night and for a band still trying to cultivate a UK following, they blew the place away.
An independent band, The Jezabels have enjoyed great success in their homeland, hitting the number two spot in the charts with their debut album last year and selling out venues in Sydney, and they have now embarked on their much-anticipated European tour.
Initially, it seemed as though it might not be such a lively night, as the audience for the two local support acts The Level Vessels and The Shinies was somewhat thin with both bands receiving a lukewarm reception. However as soon as the latter had left the stage, a sense of urgency seemed to push the crowd forward. Suddenly, the Lounge seemed crammed full of fans, anxious to catch a glimpse of the The Jezabels.
The sense of anticipation grew as the band spent 20 minutes sound-checking, before disappearing for a further half an hour. By 10:15pm, the crowd was obviously restless and bordering on annoyed, but all was forgiven as soon as The Jezabels arrived on stage.
Lead singer Hayley Mary has often been compared to indie favourite Florence Welch, and indeed it is easy to draw parallels between the two artists’ vocal styles. However her appearance seemed to send a deliberate message; Hayley Mary is a rock star.
Dressed entirely in black, from her leather jacket to her chunky Dr. Martins, she has a commanding presence that combined with her solemn expression and severe pixie haircut make it hard to take your eyes off her.
Once on stage the band got straight down to business, beginning on new single Endless Summer and moving seamlessly on to the 2010 hit A Little Piece- to much whooping from the crowd.
Live, the heavy guitar riffs, groovy keyboard melody and tight drumbeats from punk-influenced Nik Kaloper, made such an impact that you might not have noticed the lack of a bassist. Mary’s ethereal and on occasion, Kate Bush-esque vocal melodies topped the four-piece off perfectly, creating a hypnotic and absorbing grunge/indie sound.
It is Mary herself that injected the intense energy into the performance. She was so obviously absorbed in the music she seemed barely to notice the audience, so much so that she didn’t speak until after the sixth song when she explained, “We don’t talk much, we sound too Australian.”
This band fit perfectly into the Manchester music scene. They know how to build intensity throughout a song and although their set slowed down slightly in the middle, their encore performance of Hurt Me felt like a mini-symphony and was undoubtedly the highlight of the night.
The Jezabels have the potential to inject a much-needed dose of grunge into the current UK indie scene and with Hayley Mary as their frontwoman, their rise to fame in the UK seems nothing less than inevitable.