While all-star jams around LA have plumbed new depths of dreariness in recent years, tonight’s roster gives us hope for something wild and thrilling, boasting a raft of heavyweights that includes Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath), Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Billy Duffy (The Cult), Dean and Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), Steve Lukather (Toto), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Franky Perez, (Apocalyptica) Gilby Clarke (Guns N’ Roses) and the mad genius behind it all, drummer Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, The Cult).
Sorum co-founded Adopt The Arts to drum up funding for music education in the LA public-school system after California austerity measures eliminated such programs in 1978. In addition to the concert, tonight’s event honours 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees Glenn Hughes and Robin Zander for their contributions to American music culture.
At 8pm, Perez cooly strides out with guitarist Billy Duffy, multi-instrumentalist Damon Fox (The Cult) also on guitar, bassist Paul Ill and Sorum, and just like that they pile into Whole Lotta Love. Behind Duffy’s serpentine licks and the elastic push and pull of the rhythm section, the Zeppelin classic sounds expansive, muscular and utterly filthy as Perez channels his inner Plant with swaggering bravado. Next, Corey Taylor baits the audience into a siege of lusty cheers before leading the band through The Cult’s Love Removal Machine. Like Perez, Taylor has a spacious versatility, and as he roars through the song’s thunderous conclusion one can’t help but wonder if Velvet Revolver have blown a good opportunity in passing on the Slipknot vocalist.
After a gushing Sorum presents Hughes with his award, the show resumes with the Voice Of Rock backed by Dean and Robert DeLeo, Steve Lukather, Chad Smith, Ill and Fox, and Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Deep Purple’s Burn erupt with tremendous force. The musicians exude a real sense of excitement, and there’s no contrived mugging or cheap rock posturing, just heads down, legs wide and instruments shaking. Hughes’s solo acoustic version of Purple’s Mistreated starts strong, but as it approaches the seven-minute mark the energy of the audience wanes noticeably.
An entertaining live auction ensues, with auctioneer Zack Krone teasing out bidding wars among the deep-pocketed industry types seated at the £1,400-and-up tables for autographed guitars, luxury vacations and pieces of art. At one point Krone playfully snipes: “You guys have too much money.”
The second half of the gig features a heavy, psychedelia-drenched cover of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs with Geezer on bass, Taylor fronting the DeLeo brothers on Stone Temple Pilots’ Sex Type Thing, and an exhilarating set of Cheap Trick hits fronted by Robin Zander that includes Hello There, Surrender and Zander’s brilliant solo acoustic version of The Flame. As the event draws to a close, Billy Duffy transforms I Want You To Want Me from a jumpy, dance-hall pop song into a sleazy, whisky-soaked belter that gets every audience member to their feet. Finally Aerosmith’s Joe Perry makes a surprise appearance as all the musicians return for closers Come Together and a sweaty, fist-pumping Rock And Roll.
Tonight has raised more than $100,000 for music education, honoured two of rock’s dearly cherished icons and delivered the most exhilarating all-star jam that LA has seen in a long, long time.