“The sonic aggro and infectious licks are there in spades”: For better and worse, Slash strips rock to its basest elements at Wembley Arena

Slash, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators bring two hours of rock ’n’ roll sleaze to London, but little in the way of arena-sized spectacle

Slash and Myles Kennedy onstage in 2024
(Image: © Matthew Baker/Getty Images)

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You already know who Slash is. Put the Guns ’N’ Roses star’s name on top of a marquee and that venue will quickly cram itself, as evidenced by the turnout to tonight’s Wembley Arena extravaganza. Well, normally a concert of this size is an ‘extravaganza’ – this is very much a gig. No splendour, no spectacle… just two hours of rockin’!

Of course, Slash has never been one to evolve with the times. He’s been wearing the same top hat/sunglasses combo since the mid-1980s. Plus, from GNR to Velvet Revolver and now his work with Alter Bridge’s Myles Kennedy and ‘the Conspirators’ (that’s bassist Todd Kerns, drummer Brent Fitz and rhythm guitarist Frank Sidoris), he’s always dealt in the same strain of rambunctiousness.

It’s an unyielding approach immediately summarised by The River Is Rising. Despite the opener being a single from Slash et al.’s 2022 album 4, it’s moreover a shot of ’80s-style sleaze. The guitarist’s blues rock leads crackle and crunch on top of a swaggering rhythm section, while Myles’ wiry yet powerful vocals wail about “drowning in paradise”. If you’re even a passing fan of Guns ’N’ Roses (and every rocker who’s ever owned a radio is), it’s a familiar formula, but these songs amassing millions of streams and hits in their own right declares it’s a style that still has legs.

The rock remains raw through Driving Rain, Halo and Too Far Gone, by which point it becomes clear that tonight’s presentation is going to be as no-nonsense as the music. Spoiler alert: the band are going to be onstage for two hours this evening, during which time none of the 10,000 in Wembley Arena will see as much as an ember of pyro, nor the kind of fandangled video backdrop that has fast become expected at a show of this scale. In their stead is a simple SLASH curtain and … nope, that’s it. While we understand and respect that Slash is a hard rock traditionalist, some of the larger-than-life showmanship that’s always powered this genre feels lost as a result.

The setlist is similarly short on surprises. Though Slash celebrates his roots in ’80s rock with his new material, none of his actual ’80s output makes the cut. The good news is that the fleeting shocks are legitimately ear-pricking. The one Guns ’N’ Roses cover of the night is Use Your Illusion I deep cut Don’t Damn Me, led by Todd Kerns and his convincingly Axl Rose-like snarls. The band, again with Todd on lead vocals, also tackle Lenny Kravitz’s Always On The Run with attitude to match the song’s originator. The most interesting cover is reserved for the encore, however, when Slash dons his pedal steel and Myles gets to flaunt the more delicate potential of his voice in a foray through Elton John’s Rocket Man.

Ultimately, if Slash and the boys sought to celebrate every facet of the wild entity that is rock ’n’ roll, they came so close to pulling it off. The sonic aggro and infectious licks are there in spades throughout two hook-laden hours. At the same time, the spectacle and spontaneity that’s always made this genre so addictive could definitely do with a greater presence.

Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators setlist – Wembley Arena, London April 5, 2024

The River Is Rising
Driving Rain
Too Far Gone
Back From Cali
Whatever Gets You By
C'est La Vie
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Always On The Run (Lenny Kravitz cover)
Bent To Fly
Spirit Love
Don’t Damn Me (Guns ’N’ Roses cover)
Wicked Stone
April Fool
Fill My World
Doctor Alibi
You’re A Lie
World On Fire

Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going To Be A Long, Long Time) (Elton John cover)

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.