Saturday 25 August 2018

Gig Review: SKID ROW + BLUE NATION + WESTERN SAND at KK's Steel Mill, Wolverhampton (UK) 24/08/2018

To be completely honest, I never thought I'd bother going to see Skid Row again, unless they happened to be at a festival I was already at. The brutal truth is that I'd lost interest in them. I think it's best to explain where I was at as a fan before writing this review. They used to be one of my favourite bands as a teenager, and I absolutely love their first two studio albums and their covers EP. I also really like their much-maligned Subhuman Race album. It was a shift in production values, and a lot of fans didn't warm to it as they felt that Skid Row had 'gone Grunge'. I still think it's an amazing record, and it's certainly aged well. 

When Skid Row parted ways with lead singer Sebastian Bach, and replaced him with Johnny Solinger, who sounded to me like a substandard Bach crossed with a generic American Rock singer, it all went a bit wrong for them. Let's be honest, with a couple of exceptions, the songs just weren't there anymore, and the overall sound of the post-Bach albums just sounded cheap in comparison. 

After a brief stint with ex-TNT singer Tony Hartnell, Skid Row have rejected calls for reunions, and have acquired ex-DragonForce vocal powerhouse ZP Theart. ZP is a killer vocalist, and in my opinion, is way stronger and potentially a much better fit than Solinger or Hartnell. With this guy behind the microphone, great things could happen for Skid Row, providing they can come up with some killer new tunes.

So with renewed interest in Skid Row, and also a desire to check out this brand new venue, owned by none other than legendary Judas Priest guitarist and one of my personal heroes, KK Downing, I ventured to Wolverhampton.

On arrival, I noticed a queue of people in the side-bar area. KK Downing himself was greeting fans and having photos taken with anyone who wanted one. Being a massive Judas Priest fan, I couldn't miss out on the opportunity to finally meet one of my heroes. What an amazing start to the evening!

The first band on was Western Sand. I'd never heard of them before, but I'm glad that I turned up early to check them out. They're a British band with a distinct Southern American sound to their music, a bit like Black Stone Cherry, or a more upbeat, funkier Corrosion of Conformity. That's what they sounded like to my ears anyway. They had some decent songs, and their performance was really tight. They're definitely a band to watch out for in the future.

Western Sand at KK's Steel Mill
Western Sand

Next up was the Midlands based trio Blue Nation. When they walked onstage, I assumed that they were going to be more of an Indie band because the singer/guitarist bore an uncanny resemblance to a young Paul Weller from The Jam, and the bass player looked a bit like Noel Gallagher from Oasis. The band actually joked mid-set that they thought the audience probably thought that they were going to be an Oasis tribute band, but their style was more akin to Free, Cream, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I have to say that I really enjoyed their set. All three of them are clearly very gifted musicians, and they also had a strong set of songs. There are a number of 70's style retro bands doing the rounds at the moment, but Blue Nation really stand out from the pack because they don't sound like clones of any particular band. They have developed their own identity, and whilst what they do has a familiar sound, it's fresh and interesting enough to warrant further listening. I'm expecting big things from these guys.

Blue Nation at KK's Steel Mill
Blue Nation

KK Downing introducing Skid Row to the stage.

Tonight was my first time seeing Skid Row perform with ZP Theart on vocals. They opened with a blistering rendition of Slave To The Grind, and any concerns I may have had were blown away immediately. The guy is an incredible singer and front-man, and one of the reasons I think that he works so well is that he doesn't sound like Sebastian Bach. His voice is different, but it lends itself so well to those songs. I honestly think that Skid Row have totally lucked out getting ZP on board, and he's given the band a new lease of life.

The whole band was on fire tonight. They performed a slick, powerful, energetic set and genuinely looked like they were having the time of their lives performing on-stage. All of the obvious fan-favourites were included such as Sweet Little Sister, 18 and Life, Livin' on a Chain Gang, Big Guns, and my personal favourite Monkey Business.

In fact, the set consisted entirely of songs from their first two studio albums, with the exception of their cover of Ramones' Psycho Therapy (which Rachel Bolan sang as per tradition) and the Solinger-era We Are The Damned which was part of the encore, sandwiched between the massive hits I Remember You and Youth Gone Wild.

Skid Row were nothing short of awesome this evening. It was a massive reminder that they're not only one of the greats when it comes to that era of Heavy Metal, but also what a huge effect their music had on me as a teenager. I'm blatantly going to be blasting those first three albums out from my car stereo this weekend! I'm also extremely excited for the bands' future. I know that this line-up is capable of making a classic record that's as good as any Skid Row album that's gone before, if not better. I just really hope that they make it happen.

Skid Row at KK's Steel Mill
Skid Row

Skid Row at KK's Steel Mill
Skid Row at KK's Steel Mill


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