|There are lots of publicity stunts that would get you attention for your independent feature film, but having a major rock band reunite at your opening night party has got to be one of the most effective. At the Slamdance Film Festival (a sort of alternative version of the more famous Sundance fest) Sunday (Jan. 24) night, director Steven Widi Ho took to the Park City, Utah stage to introduce Guns N' Roses -- sort of.
Although they were without singer Axl Rose, former GNR members drummer Matt Sorum, bassist Duff McKagan, and guitarist Slash took to the stage Sunday night to run through some of the music to Soundman, Widi Ho's new film. This marked the first time they've played together in public in five years.
Sorum and guitarist Lanny Cordola scored Soundman in three weeks, "longer than they took to shoot it -- that was only 18 days," Sorum said. The film is a Taxi Driver-inspired tale of a sound recordist for major Hollywood productions, who tries to accommodate the Tinseltown dreams of an old girlfriend, going to any lengths to procure an agent for her.
"I hear there are going to be some old rock stars here tonight," Sorum laughed, his eyes trailing around the packed venue. The hour- and-fifteen- minute set had what Slash called "the world's fastest pickup garage band." In addition to Sorum, Cordola, Slash, and McKagan, the band included Teddy Andreas (keyboard, harmonica, and vocals), and Quiet Riot's Chuck White (vocals and bass).
They opened the show with a 10-minute bluesy instrumental from the movie score, into which Slash joined after about two minutes. Halfway through, the number mutated into slow funk, with Slash's sexy solo line out front along with him. Like all the band members, Slash looked the same, just a bit softer -- skinny black- leather- clad legs, white T-shirt, cowboy hat over impenetrable hair mat like he'd just left he stage yesterday, balancing his guitar upright, lyre-like, on his thigh like he used to. In the crowd, the smattering of grooving listeners were outnumbered by audience members pulling a stunned face that said "Look, it's GNR onstage."
Next came the poppy "Waiting on You," McKagan's soundtrack contribution as vocalist; sylphlike actress Elaine Chappuis came out to sing inaudible background vocals. The band then segued into the first of a collection of retro covers, as Slash began prowling the stage (he was waking up). They included Andreas' spirited rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious," MC5's "Fucking Attitude," and the spot-on "Ziggy Stardust" sung by Soundman's lead actor Wayne Pere, whose look and vibe suggest a cross between Robert DeNiro and Perry Farrell. Movie note: In the film, Pere's character is named "Igby."
In the middle of the show, Slash teased the audience with a few vintage Guns N' Roses riffs.Over the crowd's appreciative calls, he looked up, flashed the same warm grin, and announced, "Nope, it's not gonna happen." The closest the crowd got to GNR was the crowd filling in for Rose in "Knocking on Heaven's Door." The crowd practically wet itself as the rock anthem unfolded and the boys dutifully gave the people what they wanted in a call- and- response sing-along, with McKagan changing the words to "Knocking on Satan's Door," and then finishing with a country- and- western arrangement.
The show's last encore was "Honky Tonk Woman," in which everyone switched instruments and the film cast and crew took the stage. As what appeared to be a cast of Beverly Hills 90210 crowded the musicians in front of the stage, the evening's balance sheet tipped. There were no longer more credits in the nostalgia/unrehearsed talent column; now the bottom line read: a half-hour show was novel, an hour was entertaining, but after an hour and a half, it was time to get these love-handled dinosaurs off the stage.
-- Dana Dickey