If you feel, as I do, that ‘Tenderness’ is one of the best albums of the year, then this European tour (including just three UK dates) from Duff McKagan is an essential event. Why? Well, the band that Shooter Jennings has behind him, the cool cats who helped lay down the album, are a fuckin’ machine! These guys are so tight live you couldn’t wedge a sheet of paper between them.

Imagine The Band, The Stones at their peak, or even early 90’s The Black Crowes. It’s no coincidence that Duff hooked up with his long time friend Shooter and his band to sprinkle magic on a rootsy, laid back record full of emotion, and for want of a better word… tenderness.

On this tour, the band will be doing 2 sets every night. I’ve seen them do this before, at an album release show for Hellbound Glory at The Whisky-A-Go-Go a couple of years ago. First, they are opening with Shooter, then a full set with Duff. Who knows if they will do this again? This could be the only tour these guys do, and even though the tickets were a hefty £40, I felt it was an experience that I could not miss.

Academy 3 apparently holds 950 punters, although it certainly looks smaller. It is dark, rectangular and has a great atmosphere. You could call this an intimate show for a man who has been playing stadiums with Guns n’ Roses. But for Shooter Jennings and his band, this is probably about average.

The band open with ‘Bound Ta Git Down’, a boogie-woogie, barroom blast. The ever cool Shooter, shades permanently glued to his head, tinkles some ivories as his band jam out behind him.

The likes of ‘Denim & Diamonds’ and the epic ‘All This Could’ve Been Yours’ build on piano and mournful fiddle courtesy of Aubrey Richmond. You almost forget that bad ass bassist Ted Russell Kamp and guitarist John Schreffler Jr are there until it’s time for the guitar solo, then the pair take centre stage to shine. The rhythm section of Russell Kamp and powerhouse drummer Jamie Douglass are surely one of the best in the business and keep it all together. Pure, laid back 70’s rock ‘n’ roll at its finest, these songs are far removed from the rootsy, country that Shooter may well be known for.

The Guns n’ Roses fan base lap it up. Maybe the band intentionally chose a more rock ‘n’ roll based set for this tour, but the likes of ‘Steady At The Wheel’ and the grungy, riff heavy ‘Don’t Feed The Animals’ certainly bring the rock tonight. Aubrey and Shooter bring the sentiment and duet on a few of the more balladic numbers, but hell, this band are even better than I remember them being a couple of years back.

 

It’s packed by the time the band return to the stage with Duff at the helm. Dressed in black shirt and jeans, his tousled blonde hair framing his weathered face to perfection, Duff looks every inch the LA rock star. He plays a low slung acoustic for the majority of the set. As Shooter plays the opening piano chords to Gn’R’s ‘You Aint The First’ Duff asks us of we are ready to sing. The response is a resounding yes!

Having never seen him with Loaded live, I must say being the frontman comes naturally to Duff. He cracks jokes and swigs from a flask between songs. Laid bare on these emotionally charged tunes, his gravelly tones are spot on.

The ebb and flow of the set is perfect. A carefully chosen set mixes up mainly album cuts with ‘Use Your Illusions’ era Guns tunes and a few choice covers. The sound is fantastic; we can hear every word, every breath.

The countrified, hickey ‘Breaking Rocks’ is suitably ramshackle, Shooter takes a verse and shares vocals harmonies on the chorus, lap steel guitar and fiddle give a proper authentic feel.

As Shooter plays the piano refrain to ‘Tenderness’, Duff explains the idea behind the songs with passion and creates a feeling of camaraderie with his audience. It’s a beautiful moment and the crowd are deadly silent as he sings the verses, just with piano accompaniment, his voice on the edge of breaking, the vulnerability shining through.  At that very moment, this gig has become the gig of the year for me. In this setting, with this band, these songs give so much. I must admit to being blown away. “C’mon Manchester!” Duff shouts as we sing the chorus in unison, the euphoria builds to a crescendo. So, so good.

I mentioned the ebb and flow. The Stonesy rock ‘n’ roll vibes of ‘Chip Away’ follows , Hammond organs play out as Duff dedicates ‘Feel’ to Scott Wieland, Chris Cornell, Prince… the list of lost friends goes on. The band plays to perfection. Never overplaying they are there to back up Duff and his acoustic, to add colour and flair to the songs where needed. As before, you forget the bassist and guitarist are actually there, until they come stage front for a solo.

“Some friends of mine from Seattle wrote this song” sparks up Duff before breaking into Mad Season’s ‘River Of Deceit’. That opening little riff he trades with John is sublime, and the feel of the song fits the set perfectly. He gets some crowd participation going too. Duff straps on a telecaster and they take things right up with ‘Dust n Bones’. High energy rock ‘n’ roll, just what the doctor ordered, we sing every word and it sounds utterly fantastic. A killer solo and the crowd out-singing a cortisone-fuelled McKagan makes it a highlight.

Elsewhere this evening, ‘Last September’ and ‘Parkland’ are truly moving and about as relevant as you can get. Chillingly, Duff changes the words in ‘Parkland’ to include the most recent shootings, one that happened just a few days ago. The Clash’s ‘Clampdown’ is suitably ace, and the following ‘Dead Horse’ is downright amazing. Aubrey gets stage front to take the second verse, it’s chaotic. I’ve never heard it live before, I feel privileged.

It’s a rollercoaster of a set to be fair. The more fragile moments of ‘Tenderness’ are played out perfectly and when the band rock out, they are on fire. A final one-two and the band bows out. ‘Don’t Look Behind You’ sounds beautiful, full of sentiment, just like the goddamn record! And the closing cover of Mark Lanegan’s  ‘Deepest Shade’ sees our hero take off his guitar, jump into the pit and scale the barrier to get up close and personal with those at the front.

I knew tonight was going to be good, but I never imagined it would be this good. What I expected to be a laid back, acoustic affair turned out to be a full on rock ‘n’ roll show by a band who play like they have been on the road for years.

While ‘Tenderness’ is one of those ‘late night, stoner’ sort of albums rather than a ‘blast at full volume in the car’ sort of albums, it transfers very well in a live environment with a full band. Good songs are good songs, and coming from the heart and from the soul, Duff has an album full of them.

The tour may have just begun but Duff McKagan and his band have the camaraderie of a well seasoned touring band already. £40 well spent I say.

Author: Ben Hughes

 

There was always more to Duff McKagan than just being the punk dude bassist from Guns n’ Roses. That much was evident on ‘Believe In Me’, his first solo album, released way back in 1993.

That album was recorded on downtime during the massive ‘Use Your Illusions’ world tour. Similarly, ‘Tenderness’ was written and recorded during Guns recent ‘Not In This Lifetime’ world tour. The difference? 25 years of sobriety, 25 years of losing friends to addiction and depression, and 25 years of life experiences and raising a family in a world that is increasingly dangerous and more fucked up by the day.

 

As the title suggests, ‘Tenderness’ is a much more sombre and reflective body of work than anything Duff has ever recorded. Observations of life on the road during Guns world tour gave the inspiration, and musically, it’s stripped bare. A rootsy, rock record, more akin to Exile-era Stones than the sleazy, Sunset Strip that made the band (and the man) famous.

Hooking up with Shooter Jennings to produce and shape his first solo album since those hedonistic days was a masterstroke. Like he did a couple of years back with Leroy Virgil from Hellbound Glory (check out the marvelous ‘Pinball’ album), Shooter used his own backing band to help sprinkle Nashville style magic all over the album.

Now, this backing band is like a modern day version of The Band, proper cool cats. I saw them perform 2 sets in a night at The Whisky-A-Go-Go, one with Hellbound Glory and then another with Shooter. They will be doing the same on Duff’s forthcoming European tour. When this rhythm section of bassist Ted Russell Kamp and drummer Jamie Douglass get together with fiddle player Aubrey Richmond and John Schreffler Jr on guitar, some sort of magic happens. It’s no surprise they are Shooter’s go-to guys. He knows what sound he needs and they deliver.

 

The title track opens the album and sets the scene. “Blackened days, we’ve lost our way” sings Duff over Shooter’s haunting piano, it sets the scene for the next 45 minutes. The country-tinged arrangement is perfection and the sentiment delivered with sincerity. The sparse musicianship never overplayed, just enough in all the right places to accentuate the melodies and the vocals.

By the time the last chorus is played out, you already have the desire to gather the ones you love and sing along in unison. Moving stuff indeed.

The social commentary Duff is laying out is perfect for these trying times and it’s something we can all relate to. “Turn off the screen, take a long walk and meet your fellow man…it’s not too late’ he sings on the following ‘It’s Not Too Late’, delivered with sincerity over mournful pedal steel and heartfelt violins.

The juxtaposition of the sweet music and the honest lyricism is on point and Duff is not afraid to tackle any subject, from addiction and homelessness to school shootings and abuse. Take ‘Last September’, a hard-hitting, yet beautifully delivered countrified look at the ‘#metoo’ movement.  A lone acoustic breaks the silence like a ‘Nebraska’ outtake, before haunting, choral backing vocals join the lead vocals. Fragile, almost to the point of breaking. “She said no, he said yes, he held her down and choked her neck”. The hard-hitting lyrics are brutal and to the point, sung over laid-back, bare-bones Americana.

 

On a personal highlight, Shooter teases out Duff’s Johnny Thunders influences on ‘Wasted Heart’. The soaring vocals and sweet brass courtesy of The Suicide Horn Section (featuring Duff’s brother Matt McKagan on trombone) is sublime to these ears.

The hard-hitting ‘Parkland’ name-checks the schools affected by shootings and highlights the crazy US gun laws. It could have easily come across as being cheesy, but it’s handled in just the right way by someone who has bought up daughters in that environment. The more upbeat ‘Chip Away’ has a killer Rolling Stones vibe, as Duff drawls about smoking crack over Hammond organ, skiffle beats and handclaps that take us to church…divine.

Elsewhere, the hickey, hard luck story of ‘Breaking Rocks’ is brilliant in its simplicity. It fits the bill nicely, as Duff’s wavering vocals meet in a great duet with Shooter himself. Mental wah-wah guitars seal the deal. A song to sit on the porch and drink moonshine too.

The album closes with the reflective ‘Don’t Look Behind You’. Riding on acoustic and sparse accompaniment, before veering into almost lounge territory as the brass section are left to their own devices, with even a saxophone solo for good measure.

 

Duff McKagan has nothing to prove. He’s been there and done it all. He’s been (right next door) to hell and back and survived to become a better man. But every great musician needs to create and right now Duff has something to say and recording this album is the best thing he could’ve done.

For me, it’s as good as, if not better than Izzy’s Ju Ju Hounds, and it’s up there with Gilby’s ‘Pawnshop Guitars’.

As with past Guns n’ Roses members solo albums, ‘Tenderness’ will go largely unnoticed by the music buying (or streaming) public, which is a crying shame, as it is one of the finest releases this year and probably the best thing the man has put his name to since ‘Appetite For Destruction’.

Buy ‘Tenderness’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

Ahead of the release of his new solo album Duff has announced a string of tour dates in support of ‘Tenderness’.

GUNS N’ ROSES’ DUFF McKAGAN ANNOUNCES EUROPEAN TOUR

AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2019

Thursday 30th May 2019​​TLA, Philadelphia, PA USA

Friday 31st May 2019​​​City Winery, Washington, DC USA

Saturday 1st June 2019​​City Winery, Boston, MA USA

Monday 3rd June 2019​​Irving Plaza, New York, NY

Thursday 6th June 2019​​Thalia Hall, Chicago, IL USA

Saturday 8th June 2019​​Cannery Ballroom, Nashville, TN USA

Monday 10th June 2019​​Historic Scoot Inn, Austin, TX USA

Thursday 13th June 2019​​El Rey, Los Angeles, CA USA

Friday 14th June 2019​​​Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA USA

Saturday 15th June 2019​​Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR USA

Sunday 16th June 2019​​Showbox Presents, Seattle, WA USA

Thursday 22nd August 2019​​Stodola, Warsaw POLAND

Friday 23rd August 2019​​Astra, Berlin GERMANY

Saturday 24th August 2019​​Blue Moon Festival, Amsterdam HOLLAND

Monday 26th August 2019​​Gloria, Cologne GERMANY

Tuesday 27th August 2019​​Alte Feurwache, Mannheim GERMANY

Thursday 29th August 2019​​Islington Assembly Hall, London UK

Saturday 31st August 2019​​Electric Picnic Festival, Dublin EIRE

Sunday 1st September 2019​​Manchester Academy3, Manchester UK

Tuesday 3rd September 2019​​Le Trabendo, Paris FRANCE

Wednesday 4th September 2019​Ancienne Belgique, Brussels BELGIUM

Friday 6th September 2019​​Dynamo, Zurich SWITZERLAND

Sunday 8th September 2019​​Santeria Club, Milan ITALY

European headline dates go onsale at 9am GMT Friday 26thApril, 2019.

For tickets please see www.livenation.co.uk

TOUR WILL SEE McKAGAN BACKED BY SHOOTER JENNINGS + BAND

Pre Order Duff McKagan ‘Tenderness’ Here

Duff McKagan is giving fans another sneak peek launching “Don’t Look Behind You” – click HERE to listen.

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Day 7 October 4th – GTA flashbacks, rock ‘n’ roll haunts and unexpected discoveries

Up early, we head for Santa Monica Pier. That iconic Ferris wheel is clearly visible in the early morning sun as we stroll across the deserted beach. Exploring the pier brings back GTA flashbacks again, they got it so right in San Andreas. The number of times I have walked down this pier in the game shot a bunch of innocent bystanders found a car and drove off into the hills being frantically chased by police cars and helicopters.

Back to reality, we grab a coffee and sit to do some people watching. Homeless people and drunks lay asleep, slumped over tables in the sun as Mexicans sell art and a Chinese guy plays hypnotic music on some exotic looking instrument. An Asian woman, older than her body suggests, dances continuously to the music blaring from the cafe speakers, she wears a tiny black bikini and with a constant smile on her face, seems oblivious to the world around her. This seems to be the general theme in LA. Everyone is in their own little bubble; interaction seems unlikely unless there is a transaction to be made. Take the restaurants, the beautiful people greet you with a smile and call you “sir”. They will do whatever they think you want for that extra dollar tip, the lower classes bring your food and I wonder who takes the tips.

 

We hire bikes and take the cycle path, a long stretch to Venice Beach. It’s still early morning for most LA residents and Jamaicans with t-shirt stalls and hippies with guitars are still setting up whatever it is they do for the day to make money. As we ride onwards, the fragrant smell of marijuana fills the air, now it’s legal over here, you see (or smell) it everywhere. We cycle past all sorts of strange looking characters from all walks of life.

We stop at a skate park and watch teenagers do their thing for a while, we dodge Jamaican street sellers, trying their hardest to sell you a CD of their latest ‘music’.

After lunch, we take the car out for a bit of sightseeing.  Driving in LA takes time and in hindsight, maybe taking a taxi or an Uber is the best way. One of the places on my list was the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, one of many cemeteries in LA where the rich and famous are laid to rest.

In this idyllic, reclusive escape from the craziness of LA, you can find the likes of Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Rooney amongst the graves laid out across the beautiful gardens, but the reason for my visit is Johnny Ramone and Chris Cornell, who are funnily enough laid right next to each other. My brother was a massive Cornell fan, I remember Dan playing ‘Seasons’ to me when he worked it out, that moment always stays with me and it was essential for me to just take a moment with my thoughts here.

 

Back when I originally booked this holiday, I presumed nearer to the time that we would have a whole host of bands to go check out at the various clubs on the strip. Turns out, sod’s law, that its slim pickings for a rock ‘n’ roll junkie the nights we have chosen to be in town. But we do find that Shooter Jennings is playing at The Whiskey A Go Go, so that will do nicely.

In a bizarre twist of fate, we cross paths with my gig-going buddy and ace photographer Marc McGarraghy, who is over here doing a similar road trip with his wife.

The venue is forever iconic in my mind from my teenage years. All my heroes played here, Van Halen, Motley Crue and Guns n’ Roses, it’s the stuff of legends. It is smaller than I imagined but very cool. With a 500 capacity it’s just the size venue I love, and after grabbing a beer, we turn to the stage and imagine what has gone down there over the years.

But that’s all history now and tonight we have four bands to watch. Openers Shelby Texas are a boy/girl duo with just a guitar, who play instantly infectious countrified tunes, Their voices are great together and their Cash/Carter influences even more evident with the inclusion of a cover of Cash’s ‘Jackson’.

I don’t know who Keith Jacob is and I have no desire to find out after tonight’s performance. The guy plays the cheesy sort of country-pop I hate, like Billy Ray Cyrus. Songs that go nowhere and lyrically mean nothing. His voice isn’t great and his stage presence at the same level. The guitar tech is a dwarf, no joke! And things get even more bizarre as the set goes on. He keeps bringing out stunning looking dancing girls who perform perfectly synchronised dance routines that do nothing to improve the fact that his songs suck! Why? Maybe one is his daughter or the guitar player’s girlfriend, or maybe they are just strippers. The mind boggles, but they are by far the best thing about his set.

The climax involves the girls onstage with flying v guitars, doing an ‘Addicted To Love’ style dance routine as two male dwarfs, complete with miniature flying v guitars jump about too! The most tripped out and bizarre performance I have ever seen and probably the worst. I’m still not convinced it actually happened.

 

Hellbound Glory is like a breath of fresh air after that performance. Fronted by the instantly likable Leroy Virgil, who looks like a Bee Gee in a bomber jacket, yet sings like a rock ‘n’ roll star in his prime. His band is tight, the rhythm section especially a well-oiled machine. Turns out they are actually Shooter Jennings’ band and this is the album release show for Virgil’s comeback album ‘Pinball’. An album produced by Jennings himself and featuring his own band, backing the Reno-based singer/songwriter. It seems Jennings has taken Virgil under his wing and got him back into the business of doing music.

The upbeat title track and the likes of ‘Another Bender Might Break Me’ are whiskey and cocaine-fuelled tales that showcase a quality songwriter on the edge of a few benders himself.

As his set ends he takes the front of the stage and pours his drink over his head, in a sort of ‘don’t give a fuck’ act of defiance. Take me as I am, he seems to be saying and we certainly will.

Hellbound Glory impressed and are an unexpected highlight of the evening that will have us talking long after this trip has ended. ‘Pinball’ is a must-have album for us right now.

 

Porn legend Ron Jeremy is in the room tonight, should I go up and tell him I’ve seen all his greatest movies?…probably not!  He takes the stage to introduce Shooter Jennings. What a band! The same players who backed Leroy Virgil, all the same apart from fiddle player Aubrey Richmond, who has changed from all black leather to a hippified, blue one piece for the headline set.

Shooter, dressed in a purple suit, shades ever present, stands behind a keyboard stage front for most of the set. Sometimes on keys, sometimes a guitar, it’s the bassist and fiddle player that the eyes are drawn to watch as the set unfolds.

The sound of Shooter Jennings is more in line with what the two of us have been listening to in recent times. A sort of Alabama 3 meets Nick Cave vibe with a touch of Johnny Cash. The band is tight, the songs flow and the packed room love it. The likes of ‘Electric Rodeo’ are soaked in Black Crowes vibes, catchy standout track ‘Outlaw You’, definite country but with added fiddle giving a folk edge to it.

We came to this show last minute, on a whim. Not familiar with the music of Shooter Jennings, we leave after a great night needing to check out the back catalogue, but it’s the support band Hellbound Glory who really leave a lasting impression long after the trip has ended.

 

Day 8 – Universal Studios, bucket list bars and future stars

 

Day 2 in Los Angeles is spent mostly at Universal Studios. The tour is essential, the themed rides vary in awesomeness, Sedd has been before and recommends we upgrade to fast-track entry to save time queuing good move. We get there as it opens and leave by 3 pm having done pretty much every ride. Most are 3D interactive rides, with 3D glasses, Harry Potter and Transformers offering the most thrills, a larger than life replica of Springfield is very trippy and a detailed replica of Hogwarts is not to be missed.

We then take a trip over to Laurel Canyon to find the house where Jim Morrison lived, check out the hippy country store next door and just take in the atmosphere. Cruise through the likes of Rodeo Drive, the chaotic traffic, the palm trees and the characters that you would only see in LA.

The evening brings a trip down Hollywood Boulevard to check out the bucket list rock ‘n’ roll bars. We find The Viper Room, intending to grab a quick beer and move on. We follow the black-walled corridors to the main room, a small room that is packed, everyone seemingly waiting for a band to take the stage. There’s a cool vibe in here, we soak it in, like The Whiskey last night and imagine the bands that have taken to that stage in the past.

Tonight is the album release show for a band called Disciples Of Babylon. Premiering tracks from the newly released ‘The Rise And Fall Of Babylon’. The guys have an epic, almost proggy sound. Rousing gang vocals on the likes of ‘Liberty’ and ‘Karma’ bring to mind 30 Seconds To Mars at their best. Frontman Eric Knight incites crowd participation time and again and does what’s needed to keep the packed in crowd ignited as guitarist Ramon Blanco pulls off stadium-sized licks to his side. They even throw in a choice Zep cover in the form of ‘Immigrant Song’.

Lyrically, a socially aware band who are in touch with the state their country is in, musically and sonically tight and professional, they seem to have the songs that matter. Worth checking out methinks.

We then head onto the Rainbow Bar & Grill. Again, it’s tiny and very cool. I don’t really know what I was expecting, glitz and glamour, maybe a rock star sighting or two? Truth is, these clubs are exactly the same as the clubs I frequent in the UK, small, great drinking bars that have the same atmosphere as Fibbers, as The Brudenell, as whatever club I go to watch bands in, the only difference is the location and then maybe the less famous clientele.

I would have liked more time in LA, but it’s just so freakin’ big! A lot bigger than I expected.  There is still so much we did not see, so the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame and the rest will have to wait until next time, as Vegas is calling.

 

 

Author : Ben Hughes