From The Pit To The Crowd – Steel Panther with Vertebreaker

If you know the name Steel Panther you definitely know what to expect at one of their shows. And when the announcement came they would be performing at The Plaza Live on Thursday, November 2nd, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to review their show. I had photographed and reviewed the band as part of Chicago Open Air Day 2 (see our review of that day here!). I knew it was going to be a fun and crazy show and the fans were going to absolutely love them.

When I arrived at the show that evening, it was already a huge line wrapping around the building. There were fans wearing their best 80s garb with their hair teased, tight stretch pants, and heavy makeup. And there were tons of beautiful women attending, which I’m sure would make Steel Panther quite happy. After getting inside and meeting up with a few of my photographer friends, we were approached by the venue’s manager who informed us all camera gear would need to be returned to our car after Steel Panther’s third song. That wasn’t ideal for a lot of us, so the venue manager agreed to store our gear in his office. Due to the nature of Steel Panther’s show, which usually includes nudity from fans, I assumed they didn’t want any of the photographers publishing photos of any of the participating fans. And before we knew it the house lights were going down and Vertebreaker was taking the stage.

Vertebreaker is based out of Melbourne, FL formed together in 2013. Heavily influenced by rock legends KISS, Queen, and countless others, Vertebreaker broke out onto the scene with swagger and a hard rock sound. They performed through the Central Florida area and in 2014 released their first self-titled EP produced by Brett Hestla of Virgos Merlot and Dark New Day. “Backstabber”, their first single, received airplay on Orlando’s local radio station WJRR. The band continues to play the Central Florida circuit as often as possible and are hard at work on their second album. But, this night, Jack Connor (vocals), Ryan Cowell (guitar), Greg Summers (guitar), Rod Bobo (bass, backing vocals), and Jarrett Lange (drums) were going to rock out the crowd at The Plaza Live.

The band came put on a good performance for the crowd that evening. Jack encouraged the crowd to rock out along with them and the stage presence from the band showed how much they love what they do. Jack’s vocals provide a good rock sound, Ryan and Greg harmonize and weave their riffs together well, Rod provides a solid hard rock bass sound, and Jarrett drumwork is good and fun to watch. Jack told the crowd how much of a thrill it was to play for The Plaza Live crowd and said after their set they would be at the merch table to meet with the fans. Vertebreaker played a mix of new songs from the upcoming album and songs from the first album. Their setlist included “Indecision”, “Liberated”, “In The Name”, and “Obsolete”.

You could feel the anticipation in the air waiting for the headliners from Los Angeles, CA. The band formed back in 2000 and used to do a weekly Monday night show in The Viper Room under the name of Metal Skool. The comedic show had them playing 80s cover tunes while poking fun at the bands they covered.  They released their first album ‘Hole Patrol’ under the name of Metal Skool back in 2003. They changed their name to Steel Panther in April 2008 and was signed to Republic Records. They released their first album ‘Feel the Steel’ in June 2009. Their excellent music and raunchy lyrics were an immediate hit. They followed up with ‘Balls Out’ in October 2011, which was another success. The band found themselves playing on tours for bands such as Guns N’ Roses, Fozzy, and even a UK tour with 80s legends Def Leppard and Motley Crue. ‘All You Can Eat’ was released in April 2014. And now, the band is on tour supporting their most recent release, ‘Lower the Bar’, released on March 24, 2017. Michael Starr (vocals), Satchel (guitar), Lexxi Foxx (bass), and Stix Zadinia (drums) hit the stage and The Plaza Live erupted into screams.

Steel Panther came out in red lights, instruments blazing, with that familiar growl of “Eyes of the Panther”. The band was ablaze with Michael rocking the vocals, Satchel showing off his amazing guitar skills, Lexi laying down killer bass riffs, and Stix hammering down drumbeats, you knew this was going to be a stellar performance night. The lights came back to normal as the band played “Goin’ in the Backdoor” from their current album. The fans were enjoying it singing along with every word.

Besides their great music and fun lyrics, Steel Panther does one thing that some bands forget; engage the crowd. They enjoy interacting with the fans and making them a part of the show. I watched Michael Starr heckling a fan who attempted to heckle him. Satchel talked to the crowd about their interaction saying “You were good….you were good….you were awesome…you….we need to work on you…” and the crowd laughed. And when the band picks on each other, the crowd was eating it up and laughing. With Lexi touching up his makeup and looking at himself in the mirror and Stix constantly saying his own name when they ask him questions, it’s just all around fun. Even the photographers in the pit were laughing. And when you see the smiles on people’s faces, you know they have a good thing going.

They continued on with “Asian Hooker” (where afterward we had to stow away our gear), “Turn Out The Lights”, and one of my personal favorites “Wasted Too Much Time”. Continuing from ‘Lower the Bar’ they played “Poontang Boomerang” and had all the fans singing along. It didn’t take much to get this crowd engaged with them. It was then they decided to bring up a woman from the audience onto the stage. Michael picked out a woman named Amber and asked her to sit down on a stool. Satchel had an acoustic guitar in hand. Steel Panther decided that each of the band members would serenade Amber, but of course not before Michael asked her to show the band her breasts, to which she happily obliged and showed the crowd as well. She sat down and then had each of the band members sing her impromptu love songs, which were hilarious. And then went straight to “Oklahoma Girl” where Amber even joined along in the singing. And Amber had some great vocals! She truly impressed the band.

Michael then started offering for any other women who wanted to join them on stage to do so. After all the women who decided to join them came on stage, Steel Panther sang “17 Girls in a Row”. This was one of those times I wish we were allowed to have our camera gear. There were no topless women, nothing rude occurring on stage, just a bunch of Steel Panther female fans dancing, singing, and taking selfies with the band. It shows how much the band enjoys that fan interaction and it was a picture perfect moment. And how could I forget during the set Satchel performing his guitar solo! This man can truly shred a guitar. And not only can he shred with some of the best guitarists I’ve seen on stage, he also got up on the drum set and provided his own drumbeat for this solo! It was an amazing moment and the fans truly appreciated it.

Steel Panther closed out their set with “Gloryhole”, the great sing-along song “Community Property”, the hard rocking “Death To All But Metal”, and the fun song “Fat Girl (Thar She Blows)”. Overall, Steel Panther delivered a fun loving, head banging, adult-oriented, memorable show. It was everything I hoped for and expected the show to be. Steel Panther is a must-see band for their music and fun interaction. I absolutely love this band and you hopefully will too.

Bernard Cana

Bernard is a photographer based out of Orlando, FL. He started photographing models 5 years ago and felt the need for a change of pace. In July 2016 he was introduced to band photography and immediately found a passion for it. Bernard primarily covered performances at local venues. He joined DreadMusicReview.com in October 2016 as a photographer and writer covering both bands on tour and local bands. If you are interested in having Bernard cover your shows you may reach out to him here: E-mail: bernard.cana@dreadmusicreview.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/talonkanephotography Instagram: www.instagram.com/talonkanephotography

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