Steel Panther is the band your mother warned you about. And, as the fellas in the band will brag, it's probably because they all nailed her back in '82 on the tour bus outside of Oklahoma. To say Steel Panther is a little over the top is like saying Einstein had a few decent ideas. Trying to describe the irreverence that is the Panther to an uneducated Uber driver on the way to a show is nothing short of comical. Invariably, the question is, "Have I heard anything they do on the radio?" Always good for a hearty chuckle. The day I hear a Steel Panther song on the radio will be a sad day indeed as it means they're no longer serving up the kind of crude, shock rock for which they are infamous. Yes, the band revel in their unapologetic personas of 80's excess.
And let's not forget the metal. For all their bravado and on-stage antics, don't ever discount their musicianship. Satchel (lead guitarist) once played with Rob Halford (Fight) and Jeff Pilson (War and Peace). Michael Starr cut his teeth in a premier Van Halen tribute band (Atomic Punks). The rhythm section, comprised of bassist Lexxi Foxx and drummer, Stix Zadinia, are as tight and deft as they come.
Additionally, if you ever have the opportunity to snag VIP tickets...do NOT pass them up. Meet and greets are another experience entirely. Treating each fan as a long-lost cousin home from an extended time abroad, the guys are truly genuine when pressing the flesh (often literally) of the adoring throng of Fanthers. And if you happen to be a female, the welcome is more, shall we say, "Warm". Additionally, the group photo with the band is never a "Stand here for 3 seconds, no touching"...click..."Ok, now move along." No way! The guys are happy to chat and goof with you.
The show, no matter how many times you've seen them (10+ for us over the last 3 years) is always a different experience. Part hard rock show, part comedy sketch, the guys play off each other and the crowd. Everyone in attendance who has happened upon one of their most excellent performances, understands that no one is safe from a witty quip or well-placed insult. NO ONE.
From Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour (appearing on their song "Death to All but Metal" from the Feel the Steel album) to Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys and Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker, Avengers) to name just a few, a Steel Panther spectacle is a favorite of a variety of famous sports stars and celebrities. There are often a few hiding out in the wings.
On this final night of their "Tour de Florida" at Culture Room in Ft. Lauderdale (yes, of course we were at the two shows in St. Pete and Orlando the previous nights!), the house music and lights dim and the stage lights come up. The crowd raise their voices and their rock horns, realizing the spandex clad messengers of glam metal are soon to appear. With a short intro, "Eyes of a Panther" is often their default opener. Setting the tone perfectly with a big cat roar before they rip into the fast paced, hard driving anthem, she says, "Don't be afraid of heavy metal...so I won't!" The crowd is instantly whipped into a frenzy with relentless riffs and soaring vocals. It's a knock down drag out as the fellas are firing on all cylinders.
The guys quickly jump into "Goin' in the Backdoor" (possibly, literally). A raucous riff on the act of...well, you get the idea. And it was at the end of this tune they took a break to introduce each other. A hilarious tour around the stage a la insult comedy as each member was introduced by their counterpart. "And now I'd like to introduce the best lead singer, in our band, who from very far away looks exactly like a fat Brett Michaels..." and so on. But they give it as well as they take it and are obviously having the time of their lives. Satchel (lead guitar) introduced Michael Starr (lead singer). Starr intro'd Lexxi Foxx (bass) and Foxx intro'd Stix Zadinia (yes, read that again fast). The acknowledgements end with the guys tearing into a riff where Michael runs around stage asking each band member the name of their drummer during the break, finally ending with the audience responding to the question, "What's his name?" to which everyone yells "STIX!"
As this is the "Sunset Strip Tour", the setlist includes their homage to the California spot that gave birth to the music genre we all know and love, the epicenter of the glory days of glam and hair metal. "Jump", the first cover of the night belongs to the brothers Van Halen and the era of Diamond David Lee Roth. The guys pulled it off with such a sonic accuracy you would swear you were back in 1984 with Eddie and crew.
"Fat Girl (Thar She Blows)" brought the setlist back around their debut studio album in 2009, "Feel the Steel". The crowd fell in line during the chorus when Mr. Starr held the microphone out over the crowd with hand to ear, "Woooooah woooooah!" As you look around, every person is singing along and knows EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. And why not?! The tunes are catchy and the lyrics even more so. You can't help but repeat them as they bring a smile to your face, a “did he just say that?!” to some and a blush to others. That's half the fun!
"Poontang Boomerang" from their latest album "Lower the Bar" followed next. It is a cautionary tale regarding the attachment of a one-night stand and the reappearance of said fling at the most inopportune times. But, something "happens" to Michael Starr's microphone and he disappears side stage for the fix, only to re-emerge as Satchel began the telltale riff of “Crazy Train” that Randy Rhoads made famous. We were treated to a spot-on impression of the Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne. Shuffling around the stage like a lost and confused child left in the aisles of a supermarket, Michael Starr blurted familiar phrases between lyrics like "We love you!" and "God bless you!" and even a "Sharon!"
"Girl from Oklahoma" is a crowd favorite as a lucky (?) female is systematically plucked from the crowd for the dubious honor of “muse” for the fellas as they break into an acoustic rendition of their ode to the sweeter gender of the Midwest. The adoring fans, in tight harmony, help to narrate an encounter on the tour bus. Everyone is in on the joke and laughs along in sophomoric amusement.
The Jersey boys of Bon Jovi are covered with "Living on a Prayer" midway through the set followed by Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me". And if you could probably guess, this is where the carte blanche invite to the girls in the crowd is extended. The ladies are beckoned to climb up on stage and shake what their mamma gave 'em (bare breasts highly encouraged), many taking selfies with the guys in the process. Without skipping a beat, the boys launch straight into "Glory Hole" and the crowd, along with the female laden stage, go absolutely nuts! They jump, twirl and laugh, having the time of their lives and living, if only momentarily, the rock star dream.
As quickly as it began, the stage is cleared for an ode to eternal bachelorhood in the form of a love song (Steel Panther-style) called "Community Property". Phones and lighters glow, arms extend upwards and we sway in unison as Starr regales the crowd, and any would-be potential relationships, that certain parts of him can never be tamed; can never "chain it down". Duly noted.
"Death To All But Metal" is always a crowd pleaser and tonight was no exception. The anthem includes a refrain (and hails a hilarious video featuring a cameo by comedian Sarah Silverman), that is unmistakenly blunt about their thoughts on other music genres. Metal is the only music that matters!
And if the crowd wasn't already exhausted from belly laughs, head banging, sing-alongs and rock horn slinging, the guys finished everyone off with their encore, "Party All Day". A perfect tune for an epic night and a perfect band for those wanting a nod to the "good 'ol days" of hair and metal.
Michael Starr (lead vocals) Satchel (lead guitar) Lexxi Foxx (bass) Stix Zadinia (drums)
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