The Ulster Hall, Belfast, once more plays host to bringing rock and metal to the masses. This is not out of place as the Ulster Hall is of huge historical significance in the annals of Rock, as it was on its stage in 1971 Led Zepplin played the first public performance of “Stairway to Heaven”.
Tonight’s show would see the return of the mighty Californian Glam metalers, Steel Panther, supported by the just as mighty rockers, Wayward Sons.
The Hall was well packed by the time the lights came down and a tense roar was the reply. Something was about to happen. Then to stoke up the atmosphere even more, Fucik’s “Entrance of the Gladiators” was played as frontman Toby Jepson, formerly of Little Angels, joined by Nic Wastell on bass (Chrome Molly), Phil Martini on drums (Spear Of Destiny, ex Quireboys, Joe Elliot’s Down and Outs), Sam Wood on guitar (Treason Kings) and Dave Kemp on keys (Little Angels) strode onto stage.
And the crowd roared in appreciation and anticipation of what was to come. Wayward Sons, without too much ado, landed home “Any Other Way”, straight away proving their right to be on stage. The absolute power and talent bouncing away on stage was very plain to see. Smiles everywhere, pointing out fans, and taking in the whole vista of the hall from floor to balcony.
No one was being left out. On comes “Don’t Wanna Go”, an absolutely belter of a song with powerful catchy riffs and topped off with Toby’s incredible vocals. The real start of audience participation began now with the traditional clapping in time, sometimes an awkward icebreaker exercise for the band to gauge how the crowd will be. A mass of hands were up and clapping with Toby’s encouragement. The hall was onboard with the Wayward Sons!
Each and every song had Toby exuding clearly his passion for being on stage, he was in the moment, as was Nic who is one of the most active bass players you will ever witness, Sam on guitar having a great time, Phil absolutely belting out the drums and Dave keeping those keyboards firing. Each one demanded your attention but you could see as well how tight this band was and how they bounced off each other’s enthusiasm and talent.
The band just kept pumping out the catchy hard rocking tunes with “As Black As Sin”, “Ghosts Of Yet To Come”, and “Little White Lies”. Toby took a moment to yell “Are you still with me, Belfast?” and his reply was a resounding tumultuous “Yes”. His smile would shame a Cheshire Cat. “I have never had a bad gig in Northern Ireland” he shouted to a roar of appreciation.
To be fair, with this standard of rock being pumped out from the stage that was never going to be an issue. On the band went with absolute belter after absolute belter “Alive”, “Crush” and “Small Talk”, the hall was heaving with enthusiastic rockers from all backgrounds. The joy in the place was palpable. Finishing the set with “Joke’s On You” and “Until the End”, Toby promised Wayward Sons would be back. And from the reaction of the crowd, that was very welcome news. What a fantastic set, full of energy, rock and a strange feeling that most of the band knew everyone in the room.
Once the set change was complete and the lights went down, the murmuring stopped and all attention was locked onto the stage. A low rumbling from the Hall could be heard, as if excited anticipation suddenly had a noise. Stix came on stage first to a roar then as the rest of the band Michael, Satchel and Lexxi, mirror in hand making sure his makeup was on point, strode on stage the place erupted.
Are you ready for some heavy metal?” crowed Michael. A thunderous yes came from packed floor and balcony. And out of the brief cover music of “Everybody Wants Some” they opened with the classic “Eyes of a Panther”. The place went ballistic. Screaming, singing, jumping and generally having a whale of a time was the order for tonight and it almost felt weird. It was the first song. Had everyone been so excited that they had peaked prematurely?
No. The answer was no. As was always at Steel Panther Shows, this was just the foreplay. They get you excited and keep you there for the next hour or so.
Up next was “Let Me Cum In” and the crowd went wild waving, jumping and singing along before they delivered a cover of the Kinks “You Really Got Me”. If you have never been to a Steel Panther gig before they are an amalgam of 80’s hair metal bands like Poison, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Cinderella, and Warrant crossed with a more extreme crude humour reminiscent of Bottom, Mrs Brown’s Boys and the infamous Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s ‘Pete and Dud’. Utterly rude, crude and completely hilarious.
The way they launch into each other on stage is pure comedic genius, along with full on cringingly funny song lyrics alongside, without a doubt, pure musical talent to back it all up. They are a complete entertainment package and they play it for all it’s worth and to great effect.
Next up is “All I Wanna Do Is Fuck (Myself Tonight)” before they tag team with the audience the fan favourite “Asian Hooker”. The crowd sang along with every word with gusto and zeal while Lexxi, Michael and Satchel played the stage like kids at a candy shop. Suggestive motions were the order of the day, every single one was inflected with cheeky irreverence. They would pick out girls in the audience and ask them to show their boobs or start talking to them in the most side-splittingly crass way.
It is very important to note, Steel Panther are a perfect parody of what some would see as today as toxic misogynistic masculinity. In being David Brent-like in their show they are incredible characterisations of the high and mighty rock star just looking to use women as their playthings. Steel Panther shows are overt and fully up front about what happens at the shows, and all you have to do is listen to their music or watch one of their videos.
The humour may not be to everyone’s taste, but the point is very salient. The audience get to laugh at a send up of a character often seen as detrimentally narcissistic and a danger to fans who get too close is a very safe space. The crowd is full of women that generally are not going to take any crap from anyone, but tonight are dressed to the nines in almost porno outfits to try and be one of the 17 girls in a row on stage. The willing participation of the crowd in the show is one of Steel Panther’s strokes of genius.
Up next is a fantastic quick joke with Lexxi Fox giving the crowd a Hair Solo as Satchel awkwardly bends down to use a leaf blower on Lexxi’s hair. We see what you did there. Well played, Steel Panther. Well played.
“Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World” keeps the crowd in ecstasy of joy and laughter before one of the louder sing a longs with “Poontang Boomerang”.
The usual introductions of the band members are played out with perfect comedic timing along with solos. They also do their research for the places they go, whilst being dismissive to give the impression they know nothing. The constant local references are just lapped up.
And lo and behold, the ever popular but oh so rare event happened for everyone to witness. A guy with a hand written piece of cardboard stating it is his dream to play drums with Steel Panther. We have all seen them at gigs and festivals. Mostly ignored. Not tonight. Nick, for that was the name he gave, was pulled up onto stage and told he “had better not f***ing suck!” Whoever this lad was, he definitely did not suck. And the song they chose to show off how good he was? Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher”. What a performance and what a time that lucky lad had.
On the Steel Panther juggernaut went with “Fuck Everybody” and “I Ain’t Buying What You’re Selling”. Stunning performances of pure talented metal delivered with well-honed skill and timing.
Next came the ,moment a number of girls had been waiting for, Satchel had been lured to one side of the stage and beckoned Michael as they visibly made their eye widen as much as possible. A girl had been seen with Steel Panther approved boobs. And she was invited onto stage where Caitlin, for that was her name, was duly serenaded by all the band, even from a reluctant Lexxi, with suitably lewd lyrics. Then the band kicked into “Weenie Ride” with all the attention on Caitlin. Michael then called out that more girls should be up on stage.
And so the invasion happened of around 40 girls, all perfectly attired for a Steel Panther concert dancing as provocatively as they could to “Party All Day (Fuck All Night)” and of course “17 Girls in a Row”. It is one of those moments that is beloved by anyone who attends a Steel Panther gig. The atmosphere by this time was stratospheric. Everyone was having such a good time, enjoying every moment someone catches the eye of Michael or Satchel only to be ogled. And what perfect song would nicely cap off the invasion of the stage as the girls were escorted back down? Well, none other than “Community Property”.
To finish off the evening came the firm favourite “Death to All but Metal”. The place erupted in joy to have been a part of the Steel Panther experience. Even a standing ovation from the balconies. But they weren’t quite spent yet. To the chants of “Olay, Olay, Olay” they came back on and even took the musical lead from the chant to play along – they have played on the island of Ireland long enough to know the tune by now. And with a cheer form the audience they delivered “Gloryhole” as their encore.
The whole night was a perfect mix of excellent straight rock and roll from Wayward Sons and pure entertainment of a very low brow but delivered with a very high standard. Both Wayward Sons and Steel Panther are fantastic on their own, but delivered as a package this show is unmissable. Go see them while you can, the whole show is a perfect way to throw off all those daily pressures and just enjoy yourself.
Review by Ivor Whitten
Photography by Darren Mcveigh