Review: Steel Panther at Forum, Melbourne, 15 May 2018

Steel Panther may be known for hits like ‘Goin’ in the Back Door’, but they had fans lining out the front door of Melbourne’s Forum Theatre on Tuesday night. The seasoned, satirical-yet-serious glam metal band hit Melbourne for two sold out shows and, well, it was exactly what you’d expect from the group.

There’s a discussion – or rather an argument – to be had about whether Steel Panther should even have a platform in 2018 given the content of their songs, but that’s neither a discussion nor argument to be had here. For those that don’t know the band, they rose to fame playing covers on the Sunset Strip and eventually started crafting – in a very vague use of the term – their own songs. Their lyrics, and their individual stage personas, revolve around an ultra-crude portrayal of an eighties hair band with an emphasis on drugs, women and self-deprecation.

Content aside, there’s no doubt the band are seriously talented musicians. Singer Michael Starr nailed both his character and notes, Satchel (guitar) provided epic solo after epic solo, and bassist Lexxi Foxx was sure to spray his hair and reapply lipstick after every song. The banter between the band was never-ending and forever cringe-worthy, the crude broken up with the somewhat sweet, like “I wish you went to school with my daughter” to the shoulder-riding, bare-chested girl in the crowd. Maybe not so sweet.

For what was apparently the first time, the band played two sets: an hour of Steel Panther originals and an hour of covers. The originals set included fan favourites like ‘Gloryhole’, ‘Poontang Boomerang’, ’17 Girls in a Row’ and the faux-romantic ballad ‘Oklahoma Girl’, during which a fan got up on stage to be serenaded and ended up topless – of her own free will, of course. Another crowd-pleaser was ‘Community Property’, showcasing the breadth and depth of Panther’s lyrics, “My heart belongs to you, but my cock is community property.”

‘Best audience we’ve had all tour,’ Satchel told the crowd before Lexxi interrupted with ‘Dude, it’s our first show.’

The band came back for their covers set after a quick breather and they truly excelled. They rolled through hits from Van Halen, Guns n Roses, and White Snake before launching into a medley of songs that have supposedly ripped off White Snake (because heavy metal is awesome, says Satchel), including Tom Petty, Weezer, Styx and, of course, Smash Mouth.

Def Leppard’s ‘Pour some sugar on me’ saw a number of female fans make their way on the stage and for a moment the crowd was transported back to 1987. Guitars were shredded, shirts and bras were flung off and the crowd wasn’t really sure how to react, though the women on stage were pushing ahead confidently. The highlight, however, was undoubtedly a rendition of AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell’, for which they were joined by Joel O’Keeffe, lead singer of Melbourne band Airbourne, who belted out perhaps the best Bon Scott impersonation ever heard.

The pros and cons of Steel Panther’s existence are up for debate. Are they a harmless joke or sending a harmful message? You can be sure that advocates and critics will never agree, but if the group’s found a market, there’s no doubt they’ve cornered it.

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