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PHOTO: Rocco Guarino

Velvet Revolver

There’s no longer such a thing as selling out, says Duff McKagan of rock supergroup Velvet Revolver. “It gets harder and harder and harder for a rock band to make a living.”

Seems like a bit of a reach for someone whose former band, Guns N’ Roses, sold more than 25 million copies worldwide of their 1987 debut, Appetite for Destruction, on their way to becoming one of the biggest-selling rock bands of all time. But, McKagan points out, “Nobody is selling records like they used to. Even [Velvet Revolver’s 2004 debut] Contraband sold only 3 million albums. [In the early ’90s] Guns and STP (Stone Temple Pilots) and Nirvana and Pearl Jam [were selling] . . . 8, 9, 10 million. Three million records would have been OK, not great.”

So, the 43-year-old bassist says, the newfound attitude toward “selling out,” particularly among rock acts, is the product of this music-industry sea change. He cites licensing opportunities like commercials, movies and ringtones as alternate methods to make money off of music, adding that his band offers meet-and-greet packages at live concerts.

“Since Iggy Pop did it, it’s all OK, cause he’s the dude,” says McKagan. “God bless him, ’cause he hadn’t made any money. . . . Twelve years ago, it would have been ‘What the fuck is that?’ Now it’s like, ‘That’s pretty fucking smart.’ ”

Making good music is also a smart move, and with their recently released second disc, Libertad, Velvet Revolver have done just that. The album finds the band improving on their previous output, experimenting with new sounds and textures, and palpably having a good time.

“We’d actually been a band for a couple years and had a big tour under our belts and gained some musical trust with each other. Going in to write these songs, there was no pressure. On the first record . . . I think we felt like we had something to prove. . . . On this record, we were able to relax a bit. Boundaries weren’t there that maybe we perceived were prior to that. I think the songwriting on it is great. Scott [Weiland, the band’s singer and former Stone Temple Pilots frontman] bucked up; his singing is just amazing, and it’s a great album to play live.”

Speaking of playing live, the band will come tonight (Thursday) to Saratoga Springs (“My father in law was a professor up there forever,” says McKagan. “Professor John Holmes. He didn’t know why kids were stealing the placards off his door.”), and fans of both GNR and STP should come away pleased. “We know a bunch of songs of our collective catalogs. It’s cool to be from bands where you’re proud of your past catalog. We’re a live band—that’s what we do—so we try to squeeze as much energy out of our audience as we can because we feed off it.”

While Velvet Revolver likely will do another North American tour in spring 2008, McKagan is emphatic about the quality of this tour. “Alice in Chains are just crushing. I’ve been friends with those guys for almost 20 years. . . . This is the coolest tour for me since, I’m not kidding, back in ’91 [when Guns N’ Roses] took out Soundgarden and Faith No More, and it was the ultimate for me, my two favorite bands.”

“It’s a journey for us, playing music. If you’re not challenging yourself and trying something different and new, then you’re not really growing as a player and you’re just kind of doing it as a gig. That’s not any of our musical psyches. Let’s challenge ourselves. You only live once.”

Velvet Revolver, Alice in Chains and Kill Hannah will rock the Saratoga Performing Arts Center tonight (Thursday, Aug. 23) at 7 PM. Reserved seating is $49.50; lawn tickets are $20. Call the SPAC box office at 587-3330 for more information.

—John Brodeur

Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra

The long, illustrious symphony season at Tanglewood ends this Sunday afternoon with Keith Lockhart (pictured) conducting the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra in an all-Gershwin program. Joined by pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and voices Marin Mazzie (soprano) and Brian Stokes Mitchell (baritone), the Pops will perform the Variations on “I Got Rhythm,” selected songs and both An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue. That’s a lot of George Gershwin. And, admit it, it’s a lovely way to say goodbye to summer.

Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra will perform Sunday (Aug. 26) at 2:30 PM in Tanglewood’s Koussevitzky Music Shed (West Street, Lenox, Mass.). Inside seats are $99 to $28, and lawn tickets are $19. For more information, call (413) 637-5165.



The Miser

At first thought, the classic comedy of Moliere may seem an odd choice for this Youth Summer Workshop production from Hudson-based Walking the Dog Theater. But think again: The timeless, centuries-old wit of the snarky Frenchman is usually expressed by antagonists whose relationship to each other might be boiled down to “jackass vs. jackass.” And kids eat up that kind of battle.

In The Miser, it’s greedy old Harpagon, an “obsessive,” “sputtering old man” who can’t leave his money box alone, vs. his son Cleante, who rebels by becoming a free-spending gambler. Both of these jackasses, of course, are in love with the same woman.

While the production is designed for the whole family, it isn’t for the really young ones: It is suggested that the kids under age 10 stay home. You may have a sharp 5-year-old, but is she or he really going to get Moliere?

Walking the Dog Theatre will present The Miser tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday (Aug. 24-25) at 7:30 PM and Sunday (Aug. 26) at 2 PM at Basilica Industria (South Front Street, Hudson). Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 for seniors and students, and $5 for children under 16. For more info, visit or call 755-1716.

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