Slash brings his considerable Rolodex to LAYN benefit at Avalon
Onstage at the Avalon during Sunday night's benefit for the Los Angeles Youth Network, comedian George Lopez assured the audience that donations to the homeless-services organization worked promptly. "If you donate tonight, you can save Paula Abdul," Lopez said, to general snickering. "She was sleeping under the 101 last night."
The ex-"American Idol" host might be looking for work these days, but the real goal of the benefit -- a round-robin concert hosted by Slash with a bevy of classic-alt guests including Dave Navarro, Tom Morello, Chester Bennington and Billy Idol -- was to keep the organization's doors open in light of both tough financial straits and a big uptick in the need for its services.
The mix of a purposefully rowdy rock crowd (and open bar) with charitable impulses made for some unexpected moments of earnestness. At a rock-memorabilia auction in the adjoining Bardot nightclub, a young graduate of the program relayed how her life could have been derailed by drugs, prostitution or suicide, but that LAYN helped her pull though. A very blond woman in a clingy white ensemble adjacent to the stage offered encouragement- "But you did not commit suicide, and you are here tonight!"
A man donating $15,000 to fix the organization's roof earned respectful cheers, before he felt a need to clarify his bid to the crowd. "I'll fix the roof. I mean, not personally with a hammer," he said. "But I will pay for someone else to fix it."
Backstage, Slash held court among his assembled band mates, including former Guns N Roses players Duff McKagan and Steven Adler. Together, they know from the trials of youth homelessness -- Slash's self-titled biography offers plenty of firsthand detail on early GNR's world of squats, the temptations of drugs and alcohol, and the band befriending strippers to get cash for meals.
"When I was a kid, no adults knew how bad life was on the streets of Hollywood. Since I've gotten involved with LAYN, I've really related to the kids," Slash said. "They want to write and make music and be trapeze artists. Who else is going to give them a chance to do that?"
Slash came into the program through his wife, Perla, who is on LAYN's board. Introducing the show at the Avalon with her son Cash, she was far afield of a typically austere non-profit director, peppering her pleas for donations with endearingly salty language. She didn't so much as blush when her son chastised the audience -- "If you took a picture of my mom tonight, frickin' delete it!"
The show opened with an appropriate cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," with Slash backed by, among others, Navarro and Travis Barker. Throughout the cover-centric night, singers and instrumentalists rotated on and off stage -- one minute, Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother was plowing through "Woman," then Idol would earn an unexpectedly rapturous response to "Rebel Yell." Bennington served as the de facto Axl for a take on "Paradise City," and by the time Ozzy Osbourne came out for the set's close, the show had become a perpetually giddy tour through the classic rock heyday by artists who, in the eyes many of the kids they were helping that night, might have to soon claim that genre for themselves.
-- August Brown
Photo of Slash and host George Lopez, albeit at a recent Lakers game, by Lori Shepler / Associated Press