Islington Academy, London
Saturday 13th April 2013
Words: Johnny Churchill, Photos: Dutch Michaels
It's Saturday night, the drinks are flowing and one of the greatest bands of the 90s, Skid Row, are in town: not only to blast out the classics, but to entertain us with new material from the forthcoming 'United World Rebellion Chapter 1' EP. This should be good!
Let's get one thing clear for all those who can't get past the absence of Skid Row's former vocalist. He hasn't been involved since 1996 and current singer Johnny Solinger has been with the band for fourteen years, two albums and now three forthcoming new EP's. The jury may be out on 'Revolutions Per Minute', but 'Thickskin' is a really strong album and well worth a second look.
More importantly, Solinger can sing like a banshee and does the classics justice. New single 'Kings Of Demolition' showcases his powerful vocals and sounds immense when played live!
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There's an early start at the Academy tonight in order to get the Metal punters out by 10.00pm for the cheesy nightclub which follows, so unfortunately I missed opener, Buffalo Summer. But by all accounts they were excellent and their debut album comes recommended.
The crowd don't really need working up for Skid Row. There are some seriously die-hard fans here and the band don't disappoint.
Re-energised by their new record label deals and fresh material, the core of the band, Snake, Rachel and Scotti look like they're thoroughly enjoying the adulation. New drummer Rob Hammersmith brings an up to date feel to the drum sound, flawlessly anchoring the set, while long-time singer Johnny Solinger continues to work his Texan ass off. With one of the hardest jobs in rock, he never wavers in his aim to entertain and deliver the goods.
The set-list tonight focuses almost entirely on the 'Skid Row' and 'Slave To The Grind' albums – which means some of the more interesting tracks such as 'Ghost' or 'Born A Beggar' don't get a look in. But instead we get two new songs, 'Let's Go' and 'Kings Of Demolition' and so many classics I don't know where to start!
The set-list opens with 'Slave To The Grind' and 'Big Guns', which is enough to send the Academy into meltdown. But it's not until '18 And Life' that it really hits home just how epic Skid Row's back catalogue is. This song transcends the years and remains one of Metal's all-time greatest moments.
Solinger does a great job with this and also on the two big ballads which are the clear fan favourites, 'In A Darkened Room' and 'I Remember You'. These for me are the highlights of a magic set-list and I remember clearly my blurry VHS copy of 'Oh Say Can You Scream', with Scotti Hill's awesome solo on 'I Remember You'. It's been played a million times but it never sounds old and tonight it's just sublime.
It's not just ballads though – Rachel takes the mic for a powerful 'Psycho Therapy' which takes me back to my teenage years, while Solinger shows his strength again on a brutal 'Thickskin' which sounds ferociously heavy. There are no weak moments in the set, but Solinger doesn't quite convince on the proper 'fuck you' tunes, 'Piece of Me' and 'Mudkicker', partly I think because he's just a really nice guy underneath the shades and bandana!
'Monkey Business' gives Snake and Scotti the chance to have some fun with duelling guitars and it's seriously impressive stuff. With such strong song musicians and song writing, it's not hard to see why Skid Row has such a passionate fan base. They've also been a huge influence on many newer bands and their 'B-Side Ourselves' EP is a defining record from my teens as it opened me up to a world of glam, punk and Metal – with stunning covers of Kiss, Ramones and Judas Priest. Halestorm's cover of 'Slave To The Grind' is currently riding high on my playlist and is worth a listen.
With the 10.00pm curfew looming, Skid Row don't mess around with a long encore. It's short, sharp and aggressive – evoking the angry, insolent teenager in all of us. With fists raised it starts building with 'Riot Act' and the incomparable parent-shocker 'Get The Fuck Out' before the ending we all knew was coming right from the day we first heard this track over twenty years ago!
With both support bands on stage and joining in, tonight for a short while at least, we are all still the 'Youth Gone Wild' and it feels brilliant.
Skid Row is:
Dave 'Snake' Sabo
Slave To The Grind
Piece Of Me
18 And Life
Let's Go (new track!)
Makin' A Mess
In A Darkened Room
Kings Of Demolition (new track!)
I Remember You
Get The Fuck Out
Youth Gone Wild
Jonathan Churchill. MetalTalk.net \m/
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