As I drove into the congested car park at Grand West, it was obvious that tonight would be one of epic proportions. It had been a while since I had experienced a packed Grand Arena – I was proud to see that Cape Town had braved the cold, wet weather to come out and witness 8 legends of rock performing on one stage. I entered the Arena, the excitement was building and ticket holders fled into the Arena ahead of schedule, which was unusual for a Cape Town crowd. The balcony ticket holders were seated and the fans with general standing and Golden circle passes made sure they got in early to claim a spot with the best view of the stage.
The lights started to dim and the Kings of Chaos logo appeared on the giant screens, on either side of the stage, to the sound of royal orchestral music and flashing images of Crowns, thrones and everything pertaining to royalty while a voice welcomed the fans and asked us all to welcome each member on stage with applause. As each King’s name was announced, we could see the dark image of our favourite rock star strut onto stage and take their position. The introductions were done, the lights started to flash and on stage was Duff Mc Kagen on bass, Matt Sorum on drums, Gilby Clarke on guitar, Dave Kushner on guitar and Glenn Hughes as the first frontman to take stage. They kicked the show off with Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ – The 61 year old vocalist still sounds as good as he did when he burst onto the scene in the seventies. The song ended and the crowd was in awe and a riff every guitarist would have practiced, at least a dozen times a day, from the moment they first picked up an axe, ‘Smoke on the water’ began and the cheer from the crowd became deafening. The crowd consisted of fans of an extremely diverse age range and whether they were around for these rock anthems when these songs first entered the charts or if this was the first time these massive riffs graced their ear space, their mutual sense of awe was palpable.
After Glenn Hughes had completed his first two songs he brought Ed Roland, who was the one who got the band in touch with Andy Mac (because he was so impressed by Andy and his team from last year’s Heineken Symphonic Rocks). Ed waltzed on stage in all his eccentric glory, wearing a white blazer and multi coloured scarf. Ed then gave Glenn a hug and greeted the screaming Cape Town fans. The band started to play One of Collective Soul’s most well known radio hits ‘Heavy’ from the album Dosage. I enjoyed Ed immensely at Heineken Symphonc Rocks, but the sound of raunchy guitars, that night, as appose to the orchestral sound, was the Collective Soul I fell in love with when I was a teen. The tempo was brought down with the next song ‘Shine’ and it was just as iconic as the previous track. After the two Collective Soul songs, Joe Elliot from Def Leppard kicked off his set with ‘Animal’ and with no surprise, ‘Pour some sugar on me’ – the cheesy classic found its way in there and was the first song to push the crowd participation up to a new level, even in comparison to ‘Smoke on the water’ . After six songs, this had turned into a night you did not want to come to an end. After Joe had completed his two songs he asked for the crowd’s attention as he called the next two artists on stage; we all knew it was coming and we waited in anticipation. Once he announced Myles Kennedy, the crowd erupted for two reasons – it was Myles Kennedy and we knew with Myles came the legend Slash and we were right. Slash sauntered onto the stage and as a rock fan, that moment I always hoped I would witness in my lifetime was happening – Slash was about to play for ME! It was a moment which will remain firmly implanted in my memory forever; Slash, Duff, Matt, Gilby, Dave and Myles were on stage performing the first track from one of the first Rock albums I fell in love with Appetite for Destruction and the track was ‘Night Train’. As the band broke out into ‘Night Train’, Slash jumped on to the drummer’s platform and greeted Matt Sorum with a nod and a smile, while his other ex-Guns n’ Roses counter part Duff Mc Kagen approached the pair and continued to jam with his long time friends. The second Guns n’ Roses track was ‘It’s so easy’ and even though this was not the original frontman of the Guns n’ Roses that we idolised in the late eighties and nineties, it was just as good and let’s not lie, filling the shoes of one of the most prolific frontmen of our generation is close to impossible, but Myles did it with ease and some might argue that his performance outshines Axl’s.
The lights dimmed and the band left the stage. It was dark, yet the excitement of the crowd had not died down, no one even dared take a toilet break. We could just make out the stage crew carrying furniture onto stage and setting up a mock lounge as quickly as possible. Once they were done the stage lit up and Duff, Matt, Gilby, Dave, Ed and Joe took a seat on the couches on centre stage. Glenn was the first to perform in the acoustic set which was arranged for the South African audience and I believe it was orchestrated the day the band arrived in the country. Glenn started to strum the first chords of Deep Purple’s ‘Mistreated’ on his own, the members of Kings of Chaos sat with their guitars and shakers in their hands, but did not participate in this particular track. The floor belonged to Glenn and only Glenn for this one and he captivated a full arena with his powerful vocals and an acoustic guitar. After that seven minute long emotional master piece the band gave him a standing ovation and now it was Joe’s turn to take centre stage once again, this time the band played along, the song was ‘Two steps behind you’ which was Number one in S.A back in 93’. This acoustic set was breath taking, simple yet moving. It was as if you were a fly on the wall in a rockstar’s living room while he jammed with his mates over a few drinks. After the Def Leppard classic was complete, Ed Roland approached the mic and welcomed Slash back on stage and they started to play ‘The World I know’ from Collective Soul’s Eponymous Album. As each song from each of these bands was performed, the stage gradually started to fill up again with all the Kings of Chaos band members and the last member to join the rest of the band again was Myles Kennedy. Even though he boasts a vocal range which would make most vocalists jealous, he came across as a humble person as he walked on the stage and thanked the crowd before and after each song. Myles performed ‘Fall to pieces’ and when he was done, I was pleasantly surprised to witness Gilby Clarke approaching the mic. Before Gilby began the song, he spoke to the crowd and said “You guys sounded like Angles on that last one, I hope you will sing along to this one for me?” Gilby Started to strum ‘Knocking on heaven’s door’ and the rest of Kings strummed along, with Myles also grabbing a guitar and playing along. Even though Gilby’s vocal ability does not compare to that of Glenn, Myles, Ed or Joe, it was still an unbelievable performance and his presence on stage was captivating. As he reached mid chorus of the chart topper the crowd sang along at the top of their voices and Gilby yelled “Hey, the Angels are back”, that became one of my most memorable moments, of many, of the night. Darkness enveloped the stage once again as the band walked off and the stage crew returned, to remove the furniture in preparation for the final bout of Rock classics.
We were teleported back into the seventies once again as the ultimate rock dream team started to play Deep Purple’s ‘Burn’, from the album with the same name. Mr Glenn Hughes hit those high notes while Slash mastered those solos while pyrotechnics were then introduced at a perfectly calculated moment, leading to Slash needing to unbutton his shirt. After his performance of ‘Burn’ Glenn called on Myles once again. Slash started with the riff to what sounded like Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’… could it be? … Never… Yes, It was, how could anyone even attempt to mimic a song which was imprinted forever in time with Robert Plant’s signature voice? Myles Kennedy was going to give it a go. Would he manage to do the song justice? My heart hoped that he would but my mind was doubtful. As a Zeppelin fan I used to think no one could come close to Plant’s vocals, especially on a Zeppelin song, until I heard the distinctive wailing at the beginning of ‘Immigrant song’ but this time it was by Myles Kennedy. This was a goose bump moment and one which then became the definite highlight of the night. The musician who was a “replacement” in Kings of Chaos, (replacing Sebastian Back from Skid Row for the South African tour), had stolen the night and become the star of the show. ‘Immigrant Song’ then flowed into Velvet Revolver’s ‘Slither’. Joe Elliot moved from his mic stand on the side of the stage and took centre stage once more, introducing the next song, being a song he performed with Slash at Freddie Mercury’s tribute; the song was Queen’s ‘Tie your mother down’, Slash gave the crowd what they wanted which was mind blowing solos, his fingers moved at lightning speed while his composure was calm in contrast.
Joe Elliot stayed at centre stage to perform the next song of the evening, while the crowd were debating with each other on what song would be next. As Joe addressed the crowd and introduced the next song as a “Bowie classic” Slash popped his head in front of Joe’s mic and said the three words which would cause the crowd to erupt once again “Hey, Cape Town”. The band kicked off with Bowie’s ‘All the young dudes’ which is not one of Bowie’s most well known songs but one I thought most people would know. Joe Elliot asked for crowd participation and for the first time of the night, the crowd was quiet, it had seemed that Cape Town were not familiar with this very simple chorus which was repeated several times before they were prompted, Joe jumped in and said “Let me help you out Cape Town” and he continued to sing the chorus while Duff Mc Kagen approached the mic and sang along. Duff was dressed in his signature tight jeans and black vest, with a performance that lived up to my high expectations. It’s so sad that he won’t be performing in Joburg, so Cape Town, be grateful that you got to witness one of the world’s classiest bassists in action.
It was obvious that we were drawing to the end of the night, after close to two hours of timeless rock classics performed by some of the best musicians in the world, who have all been in bands from 30 to 40 years. Joe strode back to the side of the stage and swopped places with Myles Kennedy who would be ending off the show. Slash looked down at his gold Gibson and started to play one of the most iconic rock intros of all time – the intro to Guns n’ Roses ‘Sweet Child O’ mine’ – a moment all Guns n’ Roses fans were waiting for, in anticipation, the whole night. Myles took command of the stage yet again, before he hit the second chorus he faced his mic to the crowd and said “Let’s hear it” – “Oh, oh, oh Sweet child o’ mine” was sung by the adoring fans that filled the arena before Slash hit his solo which got the crowd cheering. The song came to an end and Slash delivered once again, yet another powerful intro and this time to ‘Paradise City’, Matt Sorum beat those drums hard with precise timing and from the musicians on stage to the audience members, and even a few security guards, began to sing our last song together with Myles. The sound of “Take me down to the Paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty” filled the arena – this is what rock music is all about, different age groups, genders and races under one roof, forgetting all the cares in the world and singing along to an anthemic rock classic. As the song was coming to its end silver streamers fell from the ceiling, along with silver confetti and at the end of “Paradise City”, Slash leant toward the centre mic and stated proudly, “I’ll see some of you fuckers tomorrow”, at this point the crowd responded with mixed reactions of laughter and cheers. It was all over. All the Kings that were not on stage at that time, came from back stage to join their peers giving a bow to an enamoured audience and bringing an end to a truly memorable evening. One which we all hope will be repeated.
A big thank you and congratulations to Andy Mac and his team, they pulled off what had to be one of the greatest performances our country has been privileged enough to see. I am looking forward to this year’s Heineken Symphonic Rocks. Andy’s events are always of the highest calibre.
Photography by Willim Welsyn, courtesy of Rolling Stone South Africa