Live Review: Steel Panther, Auckland, New Zealand

It’s a joke in itself when a band becomes as big as those who they parody, but that is exactly what has happened to Glam Metal rockers Steel Panther who were so convincing during their performance at The Powerstation last night, it was 1981 all over again.

The band started off life as a turn of the millennium in-joke playing on Los Angeles Sunset Strip until their savagely accurate satire garnered the band opening slots with Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue, and Judas Priest, which catapulted them to fame in their own right. Judging on the turn-out last night they have a lot of diehard fans enthusiastically wearing terrible wigs, contraception-inducingly tight pants, and enough leather, studs, and leopard print to make Rob Halford blush.

Openers Blue Ruin provided a full tilt gritty rock n’ roll performance evocative of The Runaways at their best, all whilst looking like a hyperbolic homage to X Ray Spex, and a fitting band to get people in the mood for the headliners, who burst onstage to the opening riff of Eyes of the Panther. For the next hour and a half, Steel Panther showed a prodigious attention to detail. Sequins, spandex, and wind machines were abound, as well as the perquisite sparkly smaltz of Satchel’s guitar work that beautifully set off Michael Starr’s impressive falsetto wail. Bassist Lexi Foxx who has the most enviable eyebrows and cheekbones, managed to keep a rhythm, maintain a duckface, and reapply lipstick and hairspray between songs. It was ridiculous, it was pompous, but they were musically tight, as Satchel highlighted during his five minute guitar solo that took us through a history of metal (and a rendition of Doe a Deer that was somewhat lost on the crowd).

The sleek musicianship  and relentless energy of the band was juxtaposed against admittedly period appropriate misogyny, sexism, and racial insensitivity, which no-one seemed to take umbrage to, much to my surprise. Songs with names such as Fat Girl (Thar She Blows) and Asian Hooker were met with whoops, cheers and metal horns as the audience sang along to every word. They were clearly in on the joke and loving the brazen caricature of the band. It got so tropey to the point where two girls dressed in studded bustiers and claiming to be twins jumped up onstage, and after getting spanked by Starr proceeded to make out with enthusiastic awkwardness. All of the band took turns throughout the evening to make salacious comments and gestures at various women who took it in their stride. None of the songs are going to blow your mind with their eloquence and wit, rather they are all dumbass tunes about getting drunk, getting high, bodily excretions and various sex acts- much like the very bands they are emulating.

It’s probably the most puerile performance you will ever see, but that doesn’t stop it being incredibly fun, and technically brilliant pastiche. Steel Panther may only be a one-trick pony, but they are fantastic at making that one joke last all night long. They would probably say that that makes them a stallion. I’m inclined to agree.

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