Heavy metal never dies, and a good d—k joke never gets old.
Accordingly, Steel Panther returned to Cleveland on an unseasonably warm Saturday night to deliver another dose of unapologetic party rock to a near-capacity House of Blues audience.
They’ve played HOB before, but Panther’s most recent C-Town stops brought them to the Hard Rock in Northfield (last December) and Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, where they headlined the Great American Rib Cook-off last May.
Renowned for their unapologetic, mockingly misogynist locker room humor, pseudo-parodic glam image, and throwback hair band sound, the reigning titans of toilet metal laid siege to Euclid Avenue anew on the December 12th date of its Well-Hungover Tour, wringing maximum R-rated rock ‘n’ raunch from its 100-minute, 15-song set.
You may recall the L.A. group’s television debut—as Danger Kitty—some years back: They launched a sonic “Love Rocket” while shilling for Discover Card.
The quartet also did business as Metal Shop before finalizing their respective stage names and ferrous feline moniker.
Their approach isn’t unlike that of (cinema mock rockers) Spinal Tap or (Jack Black comedy duo) Tenacious D, albeit more cheekily salacious. They sport the androgynous rouge and eyeliner, bouffant dos, headbands and spandex pants, and torn tees popularized by such acts as Motley Crue, Poison, and RATT in MTV’s early days—but they pack a powerful melodic punch, too: These boys possess the bona fide chops needed to perform their filthy fare and prevent the sophomoric showcase from stagnating.
The Sunset Strip quartet formed in the early 2000s as a covers band, but the Steel Panther mythos runs deeper. Guitarist Satchel (Russ Parrish) claims he hired lead singer Michael Starr (Ralph Saenz) in 1981 because the blonde vocalist was like an overweight version of (hirsute Van Halen front man) David Lee Roth.
“I’m not a chubby David Lee Roth!” Starr protested. “I’m a skinny Vince Neil!”
Peeling off hedonistic hits and come-hither cantos from the albums Feel the Steel (2009), Balls Out (2011), and All You Can Eat (2014), the band offered impressive instrumental turns, lusty lyrics, and bawdy stage banter with all the energy, testosterone, and shamelessness of a high school football team trolling the neighborhood strip club. Knowing winks, tongue wags, self-stimulatory gestures, and prodigious pelvic thrusts were the order of the day.
If “Eyes of the Panther,” “Tomorrow Night,” and “Fat Girl (Thar She Blows)” established the deliberately insensitive, politically incorrect agenda, “Just Like Tiger Woods” evinced Starr’s ability to pen topical profiles and pointed celebrity slams.
Starr also reminisced about his childhood in suburbia, where he skate-boarded down “Beer Lane” and “Cocaine Avenue” to Satchel’s house to the sounds of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Ozzy Osbourne. The guitarist attested to their brotherly bond, but couldn’t resist cajoling Starr when the singer’s story inched past the five-minute mark.
“This is a long story, man!” Satchel hissed. “I wish you’d grow up already!”
Next up was a spectacle unique to Steel Panther shows: Bassist Lexxi Foxx’s “hair solo,” during which the intentionally effeminate four-stringer (aka Travis Haley) had his locks teased by leaf-blowers (wielded by Satchel and Starr) beneath Stix Zadinia’s (Darren Leader) drum riser.
It was a rare moment where music took a backseat to camp.
Satchel said the “show upgrade” cost the band $90 at Home Depot.
Resplendent in psychedelic paisley (and brandishing a hot pink Kramer bass), Foxx primped, preened, and pooched his lips at every opportunity, mugging with all the vanity of a mid-‘80s magazine cover boy. The guys cooked up an impromptu number (“Hometown Hero”) in honor of the narcissistic bassist, who hails from Maple Heights—where (per Starr) he used to sell crack cocaine to schoolchildren.
“Turn Out the Lights,” “Asian Hooker,” and “Party Like Tomorrow is the End of the World” were mid-set highlights, as was Satchel’s pyrotechnic guitar solo on his blue Kramer (with leopard spots). Satchel also quoted Eddie Van Halen (“Eruption”), Randy Rhoads (“Crazy Train”), and other period guitar gods throughout the evening.
“Stocking Song” was a hilarious homage to the holiday season, but “Girl from Oklahoma,” “Glory Hole” and “17 Girls in a Row” brought the band back to its more familiar themes of drugs, drunkenness, and concomitant debauchery. The madcap musicians voted Johnny Manziel their favorite quarterback not because of his football stats—but because of his penchant for partying.
“Death to All But Metal” condemned less-committed rockers, while “Community Property” and finale “Party All Day, F—k All Night”end-capped Panther’s promiscuous musical parade.
Akron trio Devilstrip warmed the enthusiastic crowd with forty minutes of rust belt rock from their current effort, Rise.
Fronted by goateed singer Marc Wasmund (who sizzled on a Gibson guitar) the Rubber Bowlers barreled through “Not What You Need,” “Kill the Headlights,” “Including Me,” and “Snakebite” with abandon. Bassist Graig Lindgren held his Pedulla bass aloft, thrumming along to drummer Jimmy Gray’s sturdy beats.