Steel Panther roared through Houston on Wednesday as part of their Sunset Strip Live Tour. The show perfectly captured everything - and we mean everything - about metal.
Steel Panther gets a lot of love for their slavish devotion to the trappings of 80's metal. Their aesthetic feels like a polished Motley Crüe video. Their sound evokes everything from the slow builds of Quiet Riot's anti-establishment hits to the warmth of Guns N' Roses ballads. In fact, that rounds out this tour: a series of note-for-note covers amidst the usual irreverent originals and comedy bits.
Opening track "Eyes of a Panther" was a teaser of the wider setlist. It turns raunchy at points, but it's a get up and go sort of track that grabs a waiting crowd and draws them in. This wouldn't be out of place as your morning - er, mid-afternoon, if you're living the rock n' roll lifestyle - alarm. In another universe, you wouldn't be shocked to see Crüe write this instead of "Kickstart My Heart."
This was followed by fan favorite "Goin' in the Backdoor," a song off of 2017's Lower the Bar about, uh, your front door being stuck.
The band broke for a lengthy intro, as lead singer Michael Starr introduced his bandmates only to be repeatedly sidetracked. Satchel, the group's muscly lead guitarist and foremost comedic foil, has an easy back and forth with Starr. Without spoiling the bit, at one point you will likely hear the words, "Whose dick is whose?" at a Steel Panther show, and you will love it.
It's the first of many diatribes and asides, but like so much else in the band's repertoire, it feels lived in and fun rather than like stilted schtick. That's reflected in the music too, which for all the humor is played by a tight, experience band. In the same vein, the jokes aren't just about getting laid, recreational drugs, or going backstage, they're also about VD, boner pills, and the toll of the road.
Take the band's cover of Van Halen's "Jump." It's a great homage to the David Lee Roth years, but it's also marked by Starr's laughable inability to actually jump as Van Halen's members do in the original video. This gave way to a hilarious exchange about the band being too old for this shit, and Satchel having a list of replacements ready to go when Starr dies.
There's a symmetry to the setlist, too. A solid version of "Round and Round" by Ratt gave way to the more overt Steel Panther original, "Just Like Tiger Woods." Later, a rousing rendition of "Pour Some Sugar on Me," complete with female audience members on stage, was followed by "Community Property."
(Photo: Nicole Sergent)
Starr stopped one woman as she exited the stage to serenade her with the song's surprisingly tender opening verse. Audience participation is a big part of the Steel Panther ethos.
At one point the each band member - save bassist Lexxi Foxx, who was too busy touching up his make-up - serenaded another audience member named Ingrid. They then launched into "Girl from Oklahoma," with Starr sharing the mic with his momentary muse. Starr took a sidebar during a lull in the song to let us know, "Her breath smells like sperm," before remarking, "killer!"
As the song came to an end, Ingrid turned around a line from the chorus. Originally sung as "So come on pretty baby, suck on my balls all night," she stared Starr dead in they eyes and said, "So come on pretty baby, suck my tits all night."
Starr looked genuinely amused. After all, that's fun of it. Amidst kids who weren't born when Appetite for Destruction came out and aging audience members who haven't put on spandex in two decades, we are all worshipping at the altar of metal, band included.
Support came from Texas-based Heaven Sent. They did their best to rile a crowd chomping at the bit for the headliner, but their sound missed the mark for the first half of their set. Whether it was a soundboard issue of too much low end or flat tuning, it unfortunately took the wind out of the sails. The bummer is that these guys are all veterans of the Texas metal scene, with a great set of pipes on their lead singer and a tight bass-heavy sound. Keep an eye out for this group.