Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2018

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Slaughter, LV a comfortable marriage

Las Vegas is famous for nontraditional weddings, but the nuptials in the Orleans' Mardi Gras Ballroom Saturday night were unusual even for this town.

A couple -- identified only as Kenneth and Amanda from Chicago -- tied the knot between live sets by metal throwbacks Skid Row and Slaughter on the makeshift stage constructed for the first rock concert held in the carpeted, chandeliered room.

Promoter Dave Donner explained to the sea of befuddled faces that Kenneth is a diehard Slaughter fan who flew in for the event. The groom was later rewarded for his loyalty to the band with a brief chance to sing backing vocals on a cover of Motley Crue's "Looks That Kill" during the encore.

The pop-metal stylings of the 1980s and early '90s might seem passe to most folks today, but enduring devotion is hardly isolated to the newlyweds.

A crowd of about 1,500 turned out to drink beer, play air guitar and pump their fists to songs they knew by heart, filling about half the Mardi Gras Ballroom.

Nevermind that the rest of the world considers such music a guilty pleasure. Upstairs at the Orleans it was 1988 all over again, with women showing off copious amounts of cleavage and men sporting hair far past their shoulders.

The audience likely would have been larger had metal giants Judas Priest and Queensryche not been paired for a show at Mandalay Bay Events Center on the same night.

Still, the headlining presence of Slaughter -- a band once entirely based in Vegas, and with half of its full-time members still here year-round -- surely helped at the ticket window.

Frontman Mark Slaughter, who grew up in Southern Nevada but now resides in Nashville, Tenn., acknowledged his hometown supporters early in his band's hour-long performance.

"Home sweet home. It's great to be here. It's been a long time since we played here. I see a lot of familiar faces," Slaughter said. "We love this town and we love you."

Musically, Slaughter gave its fans exactly what they came for: thundering basslines that bounced off the low ceiling, flashy guitar solos and a procession of stratospheric screams from its frontman, still quite capable of hitting the highest of notes a few days after his 41st birthday.

That all might seem anachronistic in a modern rock scene embracing stripped-down outfits such as the White Stipes and the Strokes, but the folks who turned out on Saturday don't seem concerned with its popularity. They just wanted to rear back their heads and try to match Mark Slaughter's piercing vocals on power ballad "Fly to the Angels."

That song drew the desired reaction, as fans streamed into the room from an adjacent bar area and began holding up lighters by the dozen.

They all stayed put for the next number, metal anthem "Up All Night" (chorus: "Up all night / Sleep all day"), but after that song's conclusion the room emptied considerably, much of the crowd content with having heard the band's two biggest hits back-to-back.

The set's best moment actually proved to be a lesser-known tune off 1990 debut album "Stick it to Ya" titled "Mad About You," specifically an instrumental stretch midway through that spotlighted the chops of bassist Dana Strum and guitarist Jeff Blando.

Drummer Tim Diduro did a commendable job sitting in for regular skins man Blas Elias, one of the band's two current Vegas residents (Strum is the other). Elias, a regular with the Blue Man Group production show, was forced to miss the Slaughter gig because of an illness in the Blue Man camp, Strum reported.

Though Skid Row's performance went over well with the audience, the band's most famous cuts -- "18 and Life," "I Remember You" and "Youth Gone Wild" -- sounded far less familiar with Johnny Solinger singing in place of ex-frontman Sebastian Bach.

Solinger struggled to match Bach's upper register, but had no trouble railing against the state of music today repeatedly throughout the 65-minute set.

"You'll tell someone you know that you went to a Skid Row show and they might say, 'Why would you do a thing like that?' " Solinger said. " 'That kind of music is dead and buried.' If so, you sing them a Skid Row song called 'Get the (expletive) Out' "

Skid Row's punk-rock take on "I Remember You" outshined the standard version that followed minutes later, but a cover of the Ramones' "Psycho Therapy" and a brief tease of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" were strictly filler material.

More fun was Slaughter's encore Led Zeppelin medley. The band played parts of "Whole Lotta Love," "Good Times Bad Times" and "The Ocean," soaked up the opportunity to stretch out in front of friends and family back where the band got started.