(Photos by The Image Engineer)
It was always going to be fucking incredible. I mean Duff McKagan, Nuno Bettencourt, Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke sharing the stage – and that is only the backing band! Add to this the legendary Billy Gibbons, Steven Tyler and Robin Zander and it was clear we were in for a royal treat at the Grand Arena in Cape Town.
To celebrate, we kicked off the night downing tequila and Jäger shots which sounds pretty bad-ass, except that it was at the Spur at Grandwest. But we were loud and swore and broke a glass and raised some eyebrows and everything so I am pretty sure it still counts.
What I love about classic acts visiting South Africa is that it prompts me to rediscover their music, dig up the old catalogue, find some hidden gems, reconnect with old favourites and speculate on which songs they will be dropping into the setlist. This was the case with ZZ Top, Guns ‘n Roses, Extreme and Aerosmith, whereas I really only ‘discovered’ Cheap Trick for the first time in preparation for the show. (I know, shocking.)
This relative ignorance of Cheap Trick on my behalf lead to Robin Zander being the explosive surprise package of the night. From opening the show with “Hello There” to their big hit “I Want You To Want Me” to ripping into some Guns ‘n Roses classics later on, he proved himself to be true rock royalty through and through. Everybody now: “We’ve been dancing with…Mister Zander!”
Soon after Zander, the original Texas hombre (and Master of Beards) Billy Gibbons stomped onstage amid wild cheers and applause to crank up that gritty metallic guitar of his on ZZ Top tracks including “Waitin’ For The Bus” and the low-down and dirty riffage of “La Grange”. Rocker heaven. Biker heaven. Beard heaven.
Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler was up next, spewing out pitch perfect renditions of “Back In The Saddle Again” and “Toys In The Attic” before the whole ensemble slowed everything right down for an acoustic set with the stage arranged lounge style, as if to let the audience into a private jam session. Ballads abounded, including “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”, “More Than Words” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”. Lighters were lit, girls were held around the waist, choruses were sung along drunkenly, beer was spilt. Good times.
This proved to be only the quiet before the storm, as the Kings delivered yet another balls-out, hard-rocking set which included some of rock’s most thumping, hell-raising tracks such as “Mr. Brownstone”, “Tush”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin), “Come Together” (The Beatles) and “Walk This Way”. Beer and sweat mixed freely onto my clothes… and those around me. What a ride.
The Kings of Chaos concept works on a couple of levels, in my view. First, you get to see many rock icons for the first time in South Africa. Secondly, you get to see them performing not only their own hits, but also each other’s. Lastly, the line-up changes every time (last year the SA line-up featured Slash, Myles Kennedy, Glenn Hughes and Dave Kushner, for instance) which prevents it from becoming a stale “I’ve seen them before” kind of act.
The last words of the night belonged to legendary drummer and guy behind the concept Matt Sorum, just after rapturous applause followed the band’s encore. “See you next year!” he bellowed, fist in the air.