Subtlety has never been one of Steel Panther’s strongest suits and yet – whisper it quietly - the ultimate bad-taste band could well be making a stealthy move towards the mainstream.
It’s not as if they’ll be appearing on Blue Peter anytime soon and it’s difficult to imagine Q Magazine devoting a double spread to their songwriting prowess. However, the joke – as it is – can’t last forever.
So how does a band like the Panther continue to pack out theatre-size venues, sell more records and secure main stage slots at the Download festival?
It used to be that the patronage of Live Nation (a considerable weapon in their armoury), a few cheesy lines and the occasional stripper was enough. But the Spreading The Disease tour offers compelling evidence that Steel Panther are upping their game and changing their plays.
Sure there are still the cheeky peeps down fans’ pants and the crass sexual simulation, but even these inevitable staples of the Panther set are hardly shocking now their core fan base has seen and heard it all before.
Evolution is key.
What impresses most about the band’s latest show is the increased professionalism, the superior production values and the intensity of the performance.
Backed by a pin-sharp screen featuring video promos and band footage, the Panther are edging closer towards emulating their hair metal heroes in terms of delivering a glossy live spectacle with bells on. Where they were once content to send up Poison, Winger, Leppard and the Crue, they clearly want to be those bands sometime soon.
Even new tunes Party Like Tomorrow Is The End Of The World and The Burden Of Being Wonderful are far from Panther’s most controversial compositions: given the odd lyrical tweak it’s not a huge leap to imagine both making an impact on mainstream radio.
Only time will tell. But right now Steel Panther are still funny, still sharp, still pushing the boundaries and still packing them in. So why change what ain’t broke?
Like their idols before them, Michael Starr and his mates know the time will come when it’s reinvention or bust (no pun intended) and it’s a case of judging just when that time will come. How the band are received after Winger – and before headliners Aerosmith – at Download in June will offer some kind of answer.