Velvet Revolver, Leeds University

Leeds University

When a band includes three former members of Guns N' Roses, a former Stone Temple Pilot, and has a chequered personal history including near death experiences, an exploding pancreas, and heroin, booze and sex addiction, you have some idea what to expect. "Stop your grinning and drop your linen," begins vocalist Scott Weiland, which isn't an introduction you would get with Bloc Party. But, as Weiland says, this band "does not play pop music, we play rock'n'roll". The tone is set for an evening of blistering, incorrigible hard rock.

Not many bands play this hard and long, and those that do - Foo Fighters, say - temper the barrage with reasonably civilised acoustic sections and singsongs. With Velvet Revolver, the jugular is well and truly gone for, as songs power forward over Matt Sorum's brutal drumming. Considerable audience excitement centres around being in the presence of legendary guitarist Slash, whose trademark insouciance and molten fretwork define the label "axe hero", despite what for some would be the unpalatable realisation that he is now a married father who has given up drinking.

With topless bassist Duff McKagan recently a sober if tattooed finance student, these are not the wild boys of yore, although Weiland keeps a hand in the naughtiness stakes, undergoing rehab earlier this month and producing a megaphone to sing through when the band need to go one louder. Only his Hollywood dental work appears incongruous and conjures the uncomfortable spectacle of Bee Gee Robin Gibb, though Weiland's surgery was almost certainly prompted by rock'n'roll behaviour.

The singer - who recently lost a brother to a drugs overdose - is certainly able to invest songs with emotional depth, particularly the anthemic The Last Fight and G'n'R heavyweights Patience and Mr Brownstone. If there is an achilles heel, it is the Revolver's apparent embarrassment at varying the tempo. Although their recent album, Libertad, contains ballads, country and an ELO cover, here only Fall to Pieces softens the mood, causing Weiland to mumble: "Love song time, grab someone and get down." The quietest moment is Slash's solo spot, when he unleashes a torrent of urban blues. Maybe, when you rock this hard, to do anything else is seen as sissy.

· At the Academy, Newcastle, tomorrow. Box office: 0844 4772000. Then touring.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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