Here’s a shocker: Duff McKagan’s new solo album Tenderness, out today, is more country sounding than some mainstream Nashville releases joining it on record-store shelves. The Guns N’ Roses bassist embraced that rootsy, even twangy, vibe wholeheartedly when he kicked off his solo tour at Philadelphia’s Theatre of Living Arts on Thursday night.
Backed by Shooter Jennings, who produced Tenderness, and Jennings’ four-piece band, including fiddle player Aubrey Richmond, McKagan recreated the woke 11-song LP in its entirety and rewarded GNR diehards with Use Your Illusion I deep cuts. Those too leaned toward country music, and curiously to songs originally sung by erstwhile member Izzy Stradlin.
Following an opening set by Jennings that found the Grammy-winning producer leaning into his more psychedelic, exploratory material, like the churning “Don’t Feed the Animals” and the sneering “Gunslinger” (“I’m a motherfuckin’ gunslinger” goes the chorus), McKagan dove right into the GNR catalog with UYI I’s boozy and woozy “You Ain’t the First.” The Tenderness duet with Jennings “Breaking Rocks” followed, underscoring that this solo tour is anything but — rather, it’s the live embodiment of the bond McKagan and Jennings forged in the studio.
“Philly has always been a good fucking rock town,” McKagan said, after a warm reception for “Chip Away,” his Tenderness takedown of clickbait culture and sensationalism. Indeed, the crowd was into this new phase of McKagan, especially considering the album wasn’t yet available when he took the stage. He threw them another bone for paying attention, nodding to his Seattle roots with a version of Mad Season’s “River of Deceit” and segueing into GNR’s Stradlin-sung “Dust N’ Bones.” With two of Tenderness’ most topical and challenging songs on deck, it was probably the wise move: “Last September” addresses the #MeToo movement and what it means to act like a man; “Parkland” takes a stark look at gun violence.
Still, for all the heavy subject matter on his solo project, McKagan couldn’t help but indulge his inner rock star. He delivered a roaring take on the Clash’s “Clampdown,” with backing vocals from Jennings’ bass player Ted Russell Kamp, and returned yet again to Guns N’ Roses with Use Your Illusion’s most country track, “Dead Horse.” He forgot some of the words, but the crowd didn’t, helping him find his groove and setting up the room for one final communal moment: the show-closing “Deepest Shade.” Written by Greg Dulli and cut by McKagan’s fellow Seattle musician Mark Lanegan, the ballad took McKagan out into the audience, where he clasped hands and doubled down on his new album’s mission statement: “My love, I give to you,” he sang.
McKagan’s U.S. tour, with Jennings opening all shows, continues in Washington, D.C., on May 31st and runs through June 16th in Seattle.
Duff McKagan setlist:
“You Ain’t the First” (Guns N’ Roses)
“River of Deceit” (Mad Season)
“Dust N’ Bones” (Guns N’ Roses)
“It’s Not Too Late”
“Clampdown” (The Clash)
“Dead Horse” (Guns N’ Roses)
“Don’t Look Behind You”
“Deepest Shade” (Mark Lanegan)
Shooter Jennings set list:
“Bound Ta Git Down”
“Denim and Diamonds”
“All of This Could Have Been Yours”
“Steady at the Wheel”
“Don’t Feed the Animals”
“Living in a Minor Key”
“Leave Those Memories Alone”
“White Trash Song”
“Rock N Roll Suicide” (David Bowie)