Byblos crowd gets itself Slashed.
Byblos, Lebanon: The top hat has always been more than a fashion accessory. Associated with Britain's fashion-conscious upper classes since the late 18th century, it was deployed to distinguish members of the moneyed landed and political classes from the hoi polloi.
Popular culture is littered with figures in top hats -- such as American film idol Fred Astaire, former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Uncle Sam. Magicians routinely pull rabbits and other compact items from them.
For fans of heavy metal music, however, one top-hatted figure towers over the rest: Slash, otherwise known as the Anglo-American guitarist Saul Hudson.
Slash, the one-time guitar hero of Guns'n'Roses, was the headliner of the opening concert of this year's Byblos International Festival Tuesday evening, accompanied by The Conspirators, a U.S. band headed by vocalist Myles Kennedy.
Lauded by Time Magazine as the greatest living guitar player, Slash electrified his audience with an outstanding evening of riffs.
"I got all your tweets telling us to come down" to Lebanon, he said at one point during the show, "so we did."
Acolytes in the audience started shouting out their hero's name and switching on their video cameras even before the curtain rose on the show. The sea of diminutive digital screen swam in the darkness like a swarm of electronic fireflies, illuminating the venue with a dim glow.
For approximately two hours, Slash and his co-Conspirators demonstrated to their Lebanese followers how to rock'n'roll, performing such hits as "Nothing to Say," "Apocalyptic Love" and "Sweet Child o'Mine."
For many audience members, Slash's guitar solos were stunning. If his older fans recollect the younger Slash as having been an intense performer, he nowadays addresses instrument with nonchalance -- a relaxed demeanor he retains even as he works the strings more energetically.
Kennedy and Slash have been collaborating since 2009, with the vocalist co-writing a pair of the tunes on Slash's self-titled solo album, including "Starlight," which he sang in Byblos Tuesday evening.
The Conspirators -- Kennedy on guitar, Todd Kerns on bass and Brent Fitz on drums -- exuded confidence with their own guitar and bass guitar work, performed with the expected hirsute aplomb.
Kennedy has surreal vocal abilities. He moves easily through the register and can hold the heavy metal falsetto comfortably. Slash himself described Kennedy's performance as "f**g amazing" -- a term he applied with equal generosity to his Byblos audience, as they showered the performers with enthusiastic applause.
The moment Slash started to play the theme song of the film "The Godfather," audience members applauded and screamed in ecstasy.
During the performance, Kennedy remarked that, among all the venues in which they have performed, Byblos was one of the most beautiful.
"Look at that!" he enthused, pointing to the sea shore to the left side of the stage. They were honored to perform in Lebanon, he went on to explain. In any case the players delivered an electrifying performance, reaffirming to its loyalists that rock'n'roll never dies.
The Byblos International Festival continues on July 4 with a concert featuring French vocalist Julien Clerc. For ticketing, please call 01-999-666.
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