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Stripped down

Prophets of Addictions' Lesli Sanders is alone with an acoustic guitar

Lesli Sanders strips away glam rock artifice for a solo set. Photo credit: Facebook

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Rock and roll has its toehold firmly entrenched in artifice, in overblown personas and carefully constructed appearances. Yes, there are musicians that strive for honesty and the stripping away of affectations, or at the very least a perception of verisimilitude. Still, for the majority of people making pop music, the mere act of walking onstage functions as a barrier between the artist and the audience. Some walls need to be erected, both to protect the band and enliven the crowd. For every musician bearing his soul in a coffee shop, there are untold thousands of bands who succeed on the virtue of the characters they choose to portray in public. While we may have desired to know the real David Bowie, we only developed that desire after years of seeing a man turn himself into an icon.

As far as artifice and theatricality is concerned, not many genres approach overkill the way that glam rock does. In embracing androgyny and excess, glam created a sort of hyper-life, depicting an outrageous and oversaturated version of how a person could live - regardless of the relative success of a glam band, the musicians in those band present themselves as capital "r" Rock Stars. This reality, though, is one that is only sustainable on stage, as years of episodes of Behind the Music have taught us. Those that choose to role play glam rock in their everyday lives don't tend to stick around for very long.

So, what happens when a musician whose musical identity is immersed in artificiality - which is far from a bad thing, to be clear - sets aside the props and makeup, stripping away layers of barriers, and goes to work being genuine with an audience? Lesli Sanders is such a musician. Having spent years in bands that play on glam, metal, and punk (Pretty Boy Floyd, City Girls' Boys, and Queeny Blast Pop, to name a few), Sanders is most recently known for fronting Prophets of Addiction, a exuberantly sleazy amalgam of bands like the New York Dolls, Hanoi Rocks, and Mötley Crüe.

In recent years, Sanders began performing as a solo acoustic artist, and in doing so has exposed more of who he is as a real person. While the eyeliner and the stage presence may remain, what's for sale at a Sanders solo show is a deep well of vulnerability, most strikingly encapsulated in his voice. As the frontman for Prophets of Addiction, Sanders is all swagger; when he's performing alone, though, that defiant croak and growl he usually employs settles down into a haggard, exhausted mumble. It would be presumptuous to read into his performance or his lyrics as representations of his real life, but he does a great job of at least portraying a road-weary rocker letting his hair down and telling the truth.

In structure, a lot of Sanders' songs resemble those ‘80s and ‘90s monster ballads where a metal dude would get all emotional and stripped-down for one song an album, but he avoids sounding at all calculated or false. Songs like "Exist" and "My Religion" manage to skate past any thoughts of manipulation and sound like the kind of self-examination and remorse that it's pretty hard to fake. Sanders' guttural, well-traveled rasp is his greatest instrument, lending credibility to lyrics where he lays his cards on the table for a lover he's happy has ownership over him, as in "My Religion." Love and the road are presented differently in his solo songs than they would be in his other bands, where emotions and life experiences are heightened.

Alone with a guitar, Sanders can untie a knotty heart that his audience doesn't normally see.

Lesli Sanders, 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 26, Cover TBA, The Valley, 1206 Puyallup Ave., Tacoma, 253.248.4265

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