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Review: Velvet Revolver has the target in its sights

10:58 AM CDT on Monday, June 21, 2004

By THOR CHRISTENSEN / The Dallas Morning News

One of the most intriguing moments in concert-land comes when flashy, arena-ready stars perform on tiny stages. It's the rock equivalent of watching racehorses run the Belmont Stakes in your neighbor's back yard.

Velvet Revolver
Jason Kindig / Special to DM
Velvet Revolver lead singer Scott Weiland, guitarist Slash and drummer Matt Sorum perform at the Granada Theater.

Such was the case during Saturday night's Velvet Revolver show at a sold-out Granada Theater. The new supergroup is basically Guns N' Roses with Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots taking Axl Rose's place at the mike, and it worked the 1,200-seat theater as if it were playing the Cotton Bowl.

Sweaty, shirtless guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan spent half the show climbing onto and off of the stage monitors – a gesture that might translate well to the back row of an arena, but at the Granada, the pair looked like hyper kids playing on a pulpit. Their fellow GNR alum Matt Sorum – he of the cannon-blast drum style – brought along a gargantuan gong that seemed to take up half the stage.

But the visual linchpin was Mr. Weiland. He's best known in recent years for his revolving-door dance through rehab centers and jail cells, but Saturday's concert reminded you that he's also one of the most commanding showmen in rock.

Constantly slinking and belly-dancing across the stage, he seemed to be living out the title of Velvet Revolver's hit "Slither." When he got tired of the snake act, he picked up his favorite prop, a bullhorn, and swung it over his head like a boulder while dancing a surreal ballet.

At times, the shtick was hilarious. Unlike Mr. Rose, who performs as if he's on the verge of taking hostages, Mr. Weiland wasn't afraid to be endearingly wacky.

And while his singing isn't as shrill and bombastic as Mr. Rose's, it's filled with enough paranoia to fit nicely alongside Slash's stun-gun guitar figures and Mr. Sorum and Mr. McKagen's charging rhythms. The fifth VR member, ex-Wasted Youth guitarist Dave Kushner, jibed well with the others but left most of the soloing to Slash.

Velvet Revolver focused on tunes from its debut CD, Contraband, which entered the Billboard charts at No. 1 last week. But the high points arrived during the encores, when the band sprinted through the Sex Pistols' "Bodies" and dipped into the GNR and STP songbooks.

In interviews, Mr. Weiland has said Guns N' Roses early work was a huge influence on him, and onstage, he sounded right at home on two GNR staples: "Mr. Brownstone," a song about heroin addiction, a topic he knows a bit about, and "Used to Love Her," with its infamous chorus of "but I had to kill her."

The ex-Gunners, in turn, gave Mr. Weiland near-perfect backing on the Stone Temple Pilots' hit "Sex Type Thing" – no big surprise, since Slash and STP draw from the same well of guitar inspiration (Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, etc.).

During "Mr. Brownstone," the Granada's balcony literally shook from the capacity crowd jumping up and down. And judging from the scalper prices – north of $100 – and the sight of ticketless fans milling outside the theater, the group easily could have played a bigger hall than the Granada.

Then again, a new group looking to prove itself needs to start modestly. Velvet Revolver already knows how to rock an arena, but it's wise to sell out small theaters and kick-start the buzz machine rather than rush into huge venues that it might have trouble filling.