There Slash was, taking in the show, being taken in by it, as the little dude with the big guitar held court on a Sunday night that never seemed to end.
It was the second show of Prince's two-day stand at the Empire Ballroom last year over Memorial Day weekend, and Slash was in the crowd, watching the show by the bar, as Prince rained sparks on the capacity crowd during a 31/2-hour set that stretched into early Monday morning.
"I love Prince, I think he's a genius," the Velvet Revolver guitarist says. "That night was the first time I ever went and saw him live, I think. It was cool to see."
Though there's not a lot of direct corollaries between their recorded output, Slash and Prince do have a fair amount in common as guitarists.
Both are funky, blues-based players as technically accomplished as they come, capable of sucking all the air out of the room with wild-eyed soloing that makes your wrists ache just watching them go for it.
But as fundamentally sound as both are, perhaps their greatest shared asset is that they're skilled at knowing when not to play, at putting the song first, at balancing instrumental proficiency with pop appeal.
"That's an interesting observation," Slash says. "That's probably the first time anybody has ever really said that to me -- I think Joe Perry said it once, too."
Of course, understatement, holding back, isn't what Slash is known for -- the guy still sports a top hat befitting of a heavy metal undertaker -- but in many ways Slash always has hid behind his signature headgear.
While his guitar playing is verbose and larger than life at times, offstage, Slash is an affable, soft-spoken dude whose personality you could fit in your back pocket.
"In Guns N' Roses, I was the most meek guy in the band," he says. "I was very much in the background in the beginning of it, and my personality and all that never changed, but somehow I ended up being more of a front guy, and it was hard for me to deal with the attention thrown my way. I'm not real outspoken, so that kind of attention was sort of hard to deal with."
Still, Slash found a way to cope.
"Yeah, drugs," he says with a chuckle. "A lot of how to deal with all that was buried in booze and drugs for a while. And then I sort of grew out of that. You sort of wake up one morning and go, 'Oh, I'm here.' "
Nowadays, "here" is with Velvet Revolver, the hard rock supergroup that pairs Slash and former Guns N' Roses bandmates Duff McKagan (bass) and Matt Sorum (drums) with ex-Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland and guitarist Dave Kushner.
The band recently released its sophomore disc, "Libertad," an album of sleek, anthemic hard rock about wild women and too many pills that swings a little harder and more freely than the band's 2004 debut, "Contraband." Pairing Slash's freight train guitar with Weiland's elastic melodies and a rock 'em sock 'em rhythm section, it's some playfully rugged stuff, oversexed and welcomely underproduced.
"A lot of the way this record sounds, all around, is just because the band was a little bit more confident, a little bit more relaxed and more experienced than it was the first time around," Slash says. "When we did the first record, we didn't have the luxury of a year or two of touring around clubs before we actually went in and made a record. We got together, we got really excited about the whole thing and then put together a bunch of songs and rushed in and made a record -- as well as Scott living out of a halfway house at that time and everything just being real topsy turvy. That's the way the record was."
"Libertad" is a warmer sounding, more organic effort than "Contraband," and the band sounds decidedly more comfortable in its skin this time around.
"This wasn't what you would consider a real challenging recording environment," Slash says. "We just sort of jammed the songs and recorded everything and we left 75 percent of the record as is. Everything was very spontaneous, and we kept mostly first and second takes and that's it. Even if it had a little bit of a mistake in it, there was a certain amount of personality in that."
Ultimately though, this is a band defined by its volatility -- and this is a good thing. Velvet Revolver has never been deemed to last very long -- what supergroup ever does? -- and their breakup always has been speculated upon.
Slash knows this, he can read the writing on the wall, and he seems eager to add a few lines of his own before it's all said and done.
"We had a lot of obstacles that arose here and there that were definitely trying to keep us from getting to that next phase," he says of keeping the band together in the face of breakup rumors. "We sort of just fought through that. When we were in the studio recording the album, we just felt so vindicated, because we were finally making this record that everybody said we would never make. I don't think that we've even gotten close to what the band's capable of."