Duff McKagan - Islington Assembly Rooms, London.

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Duff McKagan
Islington Assembly Rooms, London.
29 August 2019.
By Paul Davies.

It was the sleek, shiny, long black tour bus parked directly outside tonight’s sold-out venue that signified a global rock star was in attendance. Inside, a thousand lucky punters assembled themselves in anticipation to witness Duff McKagan display a measured appetite for deconstruction with a tightly packed solo set of mostly Americana Folk-Rock influenced tunes.

Currently touring his recent Tenderness release, this solo show of
largely co-penned originals with bandmate Shooter Jennings - and a
clutch of day job covers - revealed a much softer musical antonym to
his more infamous role as tough-guy bassist in the explosive heavy
metal band Guns N'Roses.

Armed with a not unpleasant vocal, which thankfully doesn’t sound like
a sheep being savaged in a field, there’s nothing 'duff' at all about
tonight’s delivery as sometimes surprising things do arrive in very
large packages.

Draped in all black rock star couture and a low slung sunburst
acoustic guitar to boot (cowboy, of course), McKagan’s long, tall
frame strode onto the stage to strum You Ain’t The First and raise
expectations for this evening’s ensuing delight of ditties.

“Well, well, London, we meet again,” announced McKagan following this
folked up opening G N'R song.

Thus beginning a set of countrified rock which highly entertained his
flock of fans throughout an evening of fun-filled banter and Nashville
style swagger.

With an impeccable outlaw pedigree, co-conspirator Shooter Jennings
rode superb shotgun on keyboards and vocals. The solo songs he
produced from Tenderness and a punchy cover of The Clash’s Clampdown
nailed down the boards on a stomping set of rootsy songs.

With a flourish from her bow, glamorous fiddle player Aubrey Richmond
brought an alluring craft to her playing. Her belter of a voice
complemented and balanced the testosterone flying around the stage.

To further remind the collective memory of his longevity, Duff
playfully announced his Anglophile credentials with an on the hoof ode
about his first-ever London show at The Marquee.

This was re-emphasised by the deep mining of rarely played gold
nuggets from Use Your Illusion 1 album. Not only tonight’s opener but
re-dressed versions of Dust 'N' Bones and Dead Horse blew away the
cobwebs from these polished up old tunes.

Poignantly performing under a coat of arms bearing the words: Deus Per
Omnia - In God We Trust - and wearing Lemmy’s guitar strap, McKagan
paid homage to the recently deceased rock icons Scott Weiland, Prince,
Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington.

Then Mark Lanegan’s Deepest Shade and an onstage romance dance with
his wife Susan brought more than a touch of showbiz schmaltz to
proceedings. Nevertheless, it’s a heart-filling example of an artist
baring his soul and carrying the torch for a solo career that is
finally coming up smelling of roses.

Photography: Jeff Moh.

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Paul Davies