Steel Panther, the Los Angeles-based hair-metal parody band, have been entertaining fans with their unique brand of glam metal and raunchy comedy over the course of four albums and numerous performances during the last eight years. Their entertaining their mix of lewd humor mixed with solid musicianship and ’80s rock excess has helped the band achieve a cult-like status with a dedicated fanbase. Steel Panther is an act that needs to be experienced first-hand, which is exactly what we did when they took time out from their current run of North American dates and stopped in at the Ritz in Raleigh during a mini run of Halloween themed shows that they dubbed Spooky Strip Live.
From the moment the lights dropped for Steel Panther’s set the audience, filled with a variety of rockers and colorful characters, was engaged and cheering. Each member of the band came out one by one, drawing louder and wilder responses before everyone had taken their positions and they opened with the appropriately tongue-in-cheek “Goin’ in the Backdoor.” From there, the Halloween party was well and truly underway.
With a red painted face, “devilish” spandex-clad frontman/singer Michael Starr channeled the moves and over-the-top showmanship of David Lee Roth as he prowled the stage, even throwing in some high kicks and doing a solid vocal impersonation during a cover of Van Halen’s “Jump.” Guitarist Satchel, who was channeling his own inner frontman with his faced painted to match Kiss lead singer Paul Stanley, provided wildly detailed riffs, instantly recognizable hooks, and creative solos. He also often served as the comedic ringleader between songs, addressing the crowd and his bandmates with humorous self-deprecating wisecracks, amusing anecdotes, and salacious jokes. Bass player Lexxi Foxx, sporting cat ears, a tail, and feline face paint was the total embodiment of his costume. When not providing throbbing basslines, he was often at the side of the stage primping and preening while checking himself out with a large hand mirror. Any house cat would have been proud of his incessant grooming. Rounding out the lineup and driving the proceedings from behind the drum kit was Stix Zadinia, wearing faded and slightly disturbing clown makeup with a pair of horns sprouting from his headband.
The set was a mix of classic Steel Panther originals including, “Poontang Boomerang,” “Girl From Oklahoma,” and “Community Property,” with a hearty helping of inspired classic 80’s covers that included Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” and an extended pun-filled take on Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock.” However, the absolute standout cover of the evening, and one of the funniest moments occurred when Starr left the stage leaving Satchel to carry on noodling through snippets of songs. Satchel hit upon the riff from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” and the band joined in, falling into the groove of the song when Starr re-emerged dressed as Ozzy. Starr’s mimicry nailed Ozzy’s look as well as all of his nuances and movements. He was soo spot on, even fans in the front had to do a double take. The band also carried on with their storied tradition of filling the stage with women from the crowd for a few songs, but this time they added a new twist by also hosting a costume contest. In a hotly contested final, The Dude from the Big Lebowski managed to edge out a buxom blonde Wonder Woman to take the title.
Despite all the suggestive comedy and lyrical debauchery, personified in set closing song “Gloryhole,” what sticks out the most from seeing Steel Panther play live is the amount of talent and musicianship on display. Steel Panther walk a fine line between parody and reverence for the 80’s rock/metal they perform.
Opening the show in Raleigh was four-piece Canadian blues-rock outfit The Wild!. Led by the guitar and ferocious Bon Scott-inspired vocals of Dylan Villain, and anchored by lead guitarist The Kid, prodigiously bearded bassist Boozus, and Rowdy Rawd Anderson filling in on drums, The Wild! started off the evening with an explosive performance, that based on the crowd reaction, surely continued to expand their growing fanbase beyond the Canadian border.