Steven Adler’s show at The Powerstation was always going to be a very odd thing. It’s not entirely unreasonable that the drummer from Guns N Roses, now somewhat estranged from the band that made his name and nearly destroyed him, would want to make a living from his time with the band. It’s also understandable, if unconventional, that his mother, having written a bestselling book about her boy’s time with the band, would want to talk about her memories of her son’s excesses.
And so Steven Adler, and his mother Deanna, sat down on a couple of very uncomfortable-looking beanbag-like chairs on the stage of The Powerstation last night to answer questions from radio presenter Bryce Casey. And as the half-hour Q&A session ground on, I wanted so badly for it to end. Deanna is clearly very proud and fond of her son, but her son is, let’s be blunt, a mess. It might be the stroke she said he’d suffered; it might be the drugs. But he was, frankly, embarrassing. It wasn’t the swearing I took exception to, other than the fact that beyond repeated uses of fuck his swearing was quite unoriginal and woefully lacked creativity and inventiveness, although I’d not use language like that on stage with my mother. It wasn’t entirely the references to all the “pussy” — his word, not mine — that lined the cocaine-covered table he and Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe snorted after a show, although, again, the lack of class was almost unbearable. It was, I think, the way he insisted on telling his mother to be quiet and stop talking that I found most obnoxious. He might have the stories; he does not have the storytelling skills. He might have lived a life significantly more debauched than Oscar Wilde, but his raconteuring is a very long way from Wildean.
And so the second part of the show dragged around. Adler’s Appetite, essentially a Guns N Roses tribute act, have been trading on Adler’s name since 2003, with a dizzyingly rotating lineup. Currently the band is fronted by Constantine Maroulis, a distant runner-up in a television talent show who has the impossible task of taking the role of Axl Rose. And, quite frankly, he’s not up to the task, but, let’s be fair here, neither are his bandmates. Michael Thomas plays all the right notes on his Les Paul, and even in the right order, but he’s not Slash, and likely never will be. As Adler mumbled and slurred an hour earlier, Appetite For Destruction was not only a landmark record; it was a musical alchemy that required a rather special combination of musicians, and was a product of its moment. But while Adler’s current band are technically perfectly proficient, they simply lack the swagger, the cockiness, the swing, the nasty brilliance that made the original record such an ugly, evil joy. Maroulis, in particular, tried just a little too hard, his fanboyness a little too close to the surface. Adler’s Appetite managed to trot through some of the most influential heavy metal songs of the last three or four decades without managing to find the soul, the energy, the flame, even the spark of the originals.
But if his backing band let him down, Adler is still a remarkable drummer. This much was quite transparently obvious as he pounded out the intro to It’s So Easy, his swing and abandon and control on the kit seemingly effortless. He was once an essential part of an essential band; to see him trading on past glories when his one-time bandmates, now reformed without him, play stadia together, was very slightly heartbreaking.