Swansea's Sin City, 14th November 2007
Reviewed by Ian Cook
Swansea’s fresh and upcoming concert venue city hosts New Jersey act Skid Row tonight, a Metal group that experienced immense popularity during the heyday of Sleaze Rock. In the late eighties they penned such hit numbers as “18 and Live” and “Youth Gone Wild” that surfaced via their 1989 eponymous debut, and boasted a Billboard chart topping effort in the form of 1991's Slave to the Grind. Taking such considerable success into account, it's rather surprising such an intimate venue could host a band with the noteworthy calibre of Skid Row. In the mid nineties, this reviewer had the pleasure of witnessing the group live during a global tour trek. Since then, a lot of chapters in the group's life have been written. Late 1997 saw original vocalist Sebastian Bach recieve his marching orders, and it wasn't until 1999 that the group resurfaced. This time, Texan native Johnny Solinger had undertaken vocal duties. Let's be honest; having experienced the original incarnation of Skid Row as a live entity, this reviewer harboured doubts as to how Solinger will flourish as an onstage performer. Well, it's time to assess those thoughts.
Vikki Van Zant
Local Glam Metal act Vikki Van Zant assumes the opening slot, a daunting prospect as ever. Room to breathe is in limited supply, and the guilty individual responsible for that is the stage; amplifiers, drumkits and microphone stands all occupy the scarce space. Simply dubbed Sam by the group's MySpace profile, the Vikki Van Zant drummer thumps a kit wrapped in a thick ringed chain. Meanwhile, skulls drape the microphone stands. Possibly, a secret penchant for Alice Cooper visual style had overwhelmed the group. Really, who knows? A moderate welcome greets the band as they grace the stage, and both bassist and lead axeman collectively adopt a classic eighties Rock-esque image. Bearing a look reminiscent of the classic Glam Rock era, tight jeans cling to their legs while long hair curls adrift. Musically, they utilize staunch riffs and brisk solos. However, the vocals fail to match that strength. Sporting a pink bandanna across the brow teamed with ski goggles, the image vocalist Dodge wishes to convey is simply beyond comprehension. If the goal is to fabricate a bizarre fashion statement, then that strange goal is certainly achieved with flying colours. Dodge's vocal strains cannot adequately compliment the chosen musical traits that Van Zant adopt - at certain moments, the vocals' quality sharply deterioriates. During other moments though, the voice retains key. Inexperience may possibly be a recurring factor; lesser refined singers ignore the limitations which Mother Nature imposes upon their respective chords, a crime Dodge is guilty of in this instance. A modest handful seemingly appreciate the group's displayed material. After all, Vikki Van Zant's prime motive is to entertain. Van Zant wholly adopt distinct quirks associated with the antiquated Glam Metal genre, surely gaining a shy smattering of admirers during the course of tonight's live festivities.
Tonight's billing comprises SIGN as the main supporting act, apparently an Icelandic Metal export. Vocalist Zolberg graces the stage, and undertakes the customary routine of introducing himself with the help of a thick Icelandic accent. Bearing an aggressive demeanour, guitarist A. D. seems as though he inherently desires to commit homicide. The group immediately propels into the inaugural set number, an apt cue for Zolberg to launch his anatomy onto the barriers. Clearly, this provides an enticing opportunity for the audience to participate. SIGN employs a distrinctly heavier approach in comparison to the opening act, complimented by tighter instrumentation. Zolberg's Icelandic tongue lends his voice a unique quality, a true strength within a live setting. Each individual member is seldom rooted firmly to the spot, maintaining a live energy that's gifted with the ability to send shivers racing down your spine. Amidst one juncture, Zolberg's feet balance amongst the monitors. Camera in hand, yours truly patiently waits to secure a photograph of the frontman crashing to the ground with a nasty thump. Luckily for the vocalist, he returns to the stage with a jolt. You cannot help but feel that success is brooding in the wings for this group. A breath of fresh air, SIGN boast an appealing image, a prominent sound and a lone identity.
At this very moment, maximum attendance figures only faintly elude Sin City. Items strewn across the stage are collected, and the crew quietly tune guitars. Fresh faces alongside aging faces comprise the crowd, blending into a mere collage. A darkness blankets the room once the light descend into nothing, the amps' LEDs providing a solitary glow. Once their presence illuminates the stage, an uncontrolled outburst of screams and whistles warmly greet headlining act Skid Row. Johnny Solinger wastes precious little, and wails a respectful "Hello Swansea" in that deep Texan drawl. Glancing across to fellow group members, Scotti Hill quickly paves the way by hurling straight into the inaugural track. Solinger's masterly aura captivates the audience, moulding their feverish emotions in its very palms. The microphone's fuzzy head ventures into less familiar territories, Solinger thrusting the instrument towards the audience's beaming complexions. Scotti Hill can only be candidly dubbed an impromptu lunatic, though one which carries a friendly manner. United as one collective, Hill, Dave Sabo, Rachel Bolan and Dave Gara recreate that classic Skid Row vibe; dense guitars, comfortably backed by a potent bass whilst the drums hammer away. Solinger warms his presence into the crowd's very affections, the hallmarks of an accomplished performance. Senior material accompanies fresher numbers, a mighty cocktail. Solinger defiantly roars the penned words to “18 and Live” and “Youth Gone Wild”, nailing those lyrics with an authorative stamp. A magnificient opportunity, Swansea's live gig circuit rarely lures the interests of a Billboard chart topping ensemble. Albeit an aging outfit, tonight's performance testifies that the hound's pulse still boasts a few healthy beats.