17th October 2022
Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand
Review by Charlotte Lightbody, photography by Doug Peters.
The ‘greatest heavy metal band of all time’ Steel Panther, was back on our shores for another high-energy, debaucherous tour and I was frothing to see them play at Auckland’s iconic Powerstation again.
Ratso stormed the stage, playing a bunch of fuzz-punk tracks. Led by irreverent John Baker, who was out of his mind in the best way possible. Making the stage seem much too small for a man with his mic and tambourine, all for the rock n’ roll. When he disappeared for a track, surely nobody expected he would return with handmade cardboard signs, handing them out so the crowd could picket against the band. With phrases like ‘Kick out the Jams’, ‘shut it’ and ‘Ratso sucks’. It was a perfect intro to the same brand of self-aware, self-effacing, comedy-laden rock music we would soon experience. Jake Harding, Tomi, Alex and John warmed us up and readied us for the Steel…
Steel Panther, Los Angeles premier good-time party band stormed the stage wearing, and I do think the correct word is ‘wearing’, their signature long flowing hair and printed headscarves. From the moment they blitzed the stage playing it was all go-go-go – They demanded a crowd that could keep up, and keep it up, with their vision of the 80s past. Steel Panther, for the uninitiated, might shock you – but that’s the show, and it is a show, something like a hybrid of a concert and comedic stage play. Even entering a show knowing what Steel Panther is, will not prepare you for just how polished and flawless their between-song-banter-turned-dialogue is during the show, with that being the case, one could easily assume that the quality of their hair metal would suffer as a result. But that is not the case, to describe them as a tribute band to an entire era, doesn’t do service to their talent. Nor does it do justice to their wonderfully written songs, even an initiate would be singing along like a long time fan by the second chorus of virtually all of them. Picture a Kiss-style band experience hybrid, but with horrifically vulgar sexual lyrics delivered with a wink and a nod.
Between songs, they would constantly give eachother backhanded compliments, talk about the joys of cocaine addiction, sex with groupies, the joys of a rock & roll lifestyle, periodically letting in freudian slips, or getting confused and trailing off. They know that you know that they’re acting, but they know that you know that they know that it doesn’t matter, they still rock.
An Ozzy Osbourne impression by frontman Michael Starr was perfect – He feigned tech difficulties on his mic and went backstage. Returning with hair flat and parted, donning round glasses and assuming that late ‘Ozzy position’ stagger, he physically and vocally became the man. He waltzed out, well stumbled out, imitating the metal legend to ‘Crazy Train’ which he sung indistinguishably to the real man. On brand, Steel Panther brought loads of girls on stage to dance with them. Throughout the show, the girls were serenaded by classics, like: ‘Community Property’. Having departed the band, original bassist, Lexxi Fox has been pursuing other dreams since 2021. Various in-universe stories covering for the somewhat unhappy split between the group and their bassist. While Lexxi’s constant hair spraying on stage was missed, new bassist Spider did a terrific job and the crowd welcomed him to the fold, as the target of new ‘hired-gun-bassist’ “I can fire you whenever I want” jibes. The band continued the show with bangers like ‘17 Girls In A Row’ finishing up the night with an encore to ‘Glory Hole’. It felt like the crowd had been patiently waiting for this popular track and its snappy lyrics.
Steel Panther are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, consistently giving the crowd what they need – a high, sensual energy and escapism-laden epic riffs. When they’re back, I’ll be there.
Were you there at the Powerstation for this sleazy comedy metal gig? Or have you seen Steel Panther perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Note: Ambient Light was provided passes to review and photograph this concert. As always, this has not influenced the review in any way and the opinions expressed are those of Ambient Light’s only. This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase a product using an affiliate link, Ambient Light will automatically receive a small commission at no cost to you.
If you enjoyed this content, please consider donating towards the running of Ambient Light, covering expenses and allowing us to expand the coverage you love by visiting our PressPatron page.