DVD Review: Velvet Revolver "Live in Houston"

DVD Review:  Velvet Revolver “Live in Houston”
Eagle Vision
All Access Review: B+

On paper, it was a match made in heaven, or at least somewhere on the Sunset Strip. Four ex-members of Guns N' Roses – Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum and Dave Kushner – backing a slithering, swaggering, fashion-plate of a singer with a highly publicized drug problem in former Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland seemed like a super group that might just rekindle the crash-and-burn, gutter-rock firestorm of Appetite for Destruction. To a large extent, the promise of this shotgun wedding went unfulfilled – that is if you were expecting Appetite … II, the Sequel.

With Contraband, Velvet Revolver came out swinging with a fairly strong debut, even if it didn’t quite provide the grit and utterly debilitating punch to the gut that Appetite did. A lack of new ideas, some rehashed guitar riffs and Weiland’s subdued sleaze all caused Contraband to fall just a bit short of expectations, which is not to say that Contraband missed the mark entirely. Gripping grooves, tough, irresistible rhythms and the occasional flashes of brilliance in Slash’s solos rescued Contraband from utter failure and gave hope that better days lay ahead for VR.

At the very least, none of the Velvet Revolver team has anything to be ashamed of in Contraband. It just wasn’t Appetite, and maybe, just maybe, it was asking too much to believe that it would be. After all, this wasn’t Guns N' Roses, and comparing the two projects is a little unfair. But, let’s be honest. From day one when this project was announced, everyone was waiting to see if VR measured up to both Guns N' Roses and the Pilots.

At the time of this writing, Weiland had returned to the Pilots, and Velvet Revolver was being coy about whether or not it had settled on a new lead singer. “Live in Houston,” a concert DVD that captures the band live in 2005, shows what the Weiland version of the band was capable of onstage.

A gutsier, sleazier, edgier Velvet Revolver emerged this night. Aside from the lamentably forced exhortations from Slash and Weiland for the crowd to abandon their inhibitions and lose themselves in all the sexual energy that a down-and-dirty rock show can muster, Velvet Revolver acquits themselves nicely, playing with vim and vigor in stomping through originals and a few covers of Guns N' Roses and Pilots tracks. They attack the heavy opener, “Sucker Train Blues,” with a pounding, frothing-at-the-mouth intensity that unrelentingly barrels on through satisfying, riff-heavy numbers like “Do it for the Kids,” the epically huge “Headspace” and an equally explosive “Crackerman.” Weiland plays the role of debauched ringleader perfectly, crawling around the stage like a predator, pouncing on monitors and pouring out sweaty vocals through a megaphone, while the band lets loose furious, bump-and-grind metal grooves. And on the Guns N' Roses classic “It’s So Easy,” Weiland sounds just as dangerous as Axl ever did. 

Captured from a variety of camera angles, Velvet Revolver sizzles live, and the quick cuts and creative image shaping add to the excitement of a live performance that tears the roof off the place, even if VR flat-lines on a weakened “Big Machine” and a boring take on “Used to Love Her” before reviving itself for “Slither,” which comes down from its atmospheric headspace to hit the streets with roaring guitars.  

Overall, “Live in Houston” is not only a cracking concert DVD, but it’s augmented by no-holds-barred, behind-the-scene footage and candid interviews that talk openly about helping Weiland get sober and how the band fought over who the lead singer would be before getting Weiland. Expertly filmed and edited, with a whole lot more to offer than just electrifying live rock and roll, “Live in Houston” finds Velvet Revolver firing round after round of tough, angry rock to a crowd eager to lap it all up. Stay tuned. Evidently, the Velvet Revolver story is far from finished.

- Peter Lindblad

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