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.