Christmastime in Kansas City brings many time-honored traditions; the Plaza Lights, ice skating at Crown Center, and 98.9 the Rock’s Twisted Xmas. Decking the halls of the historic Midland Theater was Detroit’s hard rocking Wilson, and rowdy and rambunctious Steel Panther. Wading through the throngs of excited elves and festive fans, you’d notice that more than a few of the concert goers were decked out in their ugliest sweaters, some killer biker leather, and a few people rocking big hair and spandex.
First to the stage to get all the sugar plums dancing were Detroit rockers, Wilson. Kansas City being their last stop on tour with Steel Panther, they wasted no time getting the crowd absolutely amped up and excited. Vocalist Chad Nicefield’s yellow and plaid suit was no match for his energetic vocals, and opened up their set with “Dumptruck” from their latest album Tasty Nasty. Exuding confidence and stage presence, Wilson was a perfect match-up for this tour. Blending hard rocking guitars, blistering drum beats, groovy bass lines, and a sprinkle of some 90s hip-hop, Wilson creates a sound unique to them, but with pleasing familiar sounds. Nicefield was joined on stage by Jason Spencer, shred master on lead guitar, Kyle Landry, backing dat axe up as well, James Lascu, bringing the funk on the bass, and Matt Puhy keeping the rhythm exciting on drums. Wilson was joined by a mysterious DJ in a Green ski-mask, occasionally juicing up Nicefield with a strange concoction from a dropper. For a moment, I thought the DJ was playing part of the Agro-Crag from Nickelodeon’s hit show “Guts”, but it turned out to be two green glowing middle fingers. Wilson continues bring the party; highlights include a fantastic rendition of the 90s classic “Tubthumping”, and ended the set as wild as they began with “House of Fuckery”.
-quick side note: Lajon Witherspoon from Sevendust was totally hanging out at the bar attached to the Midland. I didn’t want to bother him, but it was cool seeing him none the less-
Steel Panther always draws a huge crowd when stopping in Kansas City, and Twisted Xmas was no different. Giving fans a dose of 80s hair metal and comedy at the same time can be difficult; pulling it off with talent, humor, and sex appeal is the stuff of legends. Since 2000, these glam rockers have been selling out venues around the world. Michael Starr and his powerhouse vocals kicked off the set with “Eye of the Panther”. Joining him on stage is Satchel on guitar, and Stix Zadinia on drums. Bassist Lexxi Foxx was unable to join the band on tour, due to being in “sex rehab”. Lexxi was replaced by a friend of the band, Spyder. Think Nikki Sixx, but just a little bigger.
In addition to their original material, Steel Panther covered a variety of hair metal hits. While covering Crazy Train, Michael Starr came out on-stage looking like a spitting image of Ozzy Ozbourne; long hair parted down the middle, round sunglasses, and general glazed over look, and the occasional shout of “Sharon!”. Not to be left out of the holiday mood, “Stocking Song” out the crowd in the Christmas Spirit. And a Steel Panther show wouldn’t be the same without a metric shit ton of women on stage, and “Girl from Oklahoma” and the Def Leppard cover “Pour Some Sugar on Me” delivered that very tradition.
This show marked the final leg of the US Sunset Strip tour with Wilson. The group plays in Portland, OR for a New Year’s Eve show, then heads west later in January with two stops in California and one in Colorado. The band then crosses the pond for their European Sunset Strip Tour in February. Complete tour dates can be found at steelpantherrocks.com/tour/
I’ll give 98.9 The Rock credit for planning a logistically sound concert: Being a show with only two acts allowed both bands to really shine on stage. Combined with a perfect sized venue, decent ticket prices, and plenty of places to grab a cold drink, The Rock should count this Twisted Xmas as one for the record books. Packing in that many energetic rock fans into a medium sized venue and keeping those in attendance satisfied is no small feat; booking the likes of Steel Panther is even better. I’ve been critical of the rock in the past, and some of their shows have been disastrous, but this year’s Twisted Xmas was a wild ride and a great early Christmas gift for Kansas City.
Words by Dallas Hessel
Photos by Josh Chaikin