Skid Row + Backyard Babies
+ H.E.A.T. + Vega + Killit
Saturday 26th January 2019
O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London
A dark wet Saturday night in January is a good time to get out and find a nice intimate gig. So is a warm Thursday in June but I digress. January is a time of sales and bargains and tonight is a bargain indeed. Not one, not two but five class rock acts are gracing the stage at this premier London venue, the O2 Forum in Kentish Town. No town or country club this, the old art deco cinema, which holds 2300, is now a rocking venue. Great sound and excellent acoustics, it has an intimate feel yet has the exciting atmosphere of a large stadium event. And tonight's bands suit the environment on every level.
Openers KilliT take to the stage at the unfathomable hour of 5.15 pm. Most don't normally wake up until then unless the pub has a Happy Hour so the audience is somewhat sparse. Which is a shame as they are a great act. The London based five piece really hit the spot. They perfectly sum up their sound when they say “Our inspiration comes from 1980's Classic Rock – bands like Guns N’ Roses, Faith no More and Queens Of The Stone Age, all of who have a global reputation. We also appreciate 70's legends like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. However, the one thing we do not want to become is a 70's or 80's cliché. We want to be relevant to the modern world.” And they succeed. They have a raw, almost Metal sound, but the Classic Rock groove shines through. Guitars are provided by Les Paul wielding Niro Knox and PRS clad Claire Genoud whilst vocals are belted out by Gaz Twist. Their short but effective set, taken mainly from their 'Shut It Down' album is excellent - and worth a listen if you get the chance. The early birds today definitely got the worm. As old Bill Shakey put it, "And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here". And we all know he was a proper Metal head.
Up next are a six piece from the UK called Vega consisting of Nick Workman on lead vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, Tom Martin on bass guitar, Marcus Thurston on lead guitar, James Martin on keyboards, Mikey Kew on guitar, backing and vocals and Martin ‘Hutch' Hutchinson: drums. Taking to the stage to the unusual strains of Nana Mouskouri's 'In an English Country Garden' the lads treat us to some great Melodic Rock. Heavily influenced by the likes of Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, the music is radio friendly rock that would sit well in any arena. 'Kiss Of Life', from their 2009 album of the same name, is a chugging Bon Jovi inspired delight whilst 'Last Man Standing', from their latest album 'Only Standing', is a classic arena Rock anthem. But there is a hint of Pop about them, with frontman Workman, a tall blond good looking fella, who could front a boy band. Indeed, the whole band are not averse to setting the ladies hearts a flutter, as the rapidly filling arena could attest to. Closing track \Saving Grace' is a great crowd pleaser with plenty of singing and interaction. 2019 sees the bands tenth anniversary with five albums to their name and a string of festivals both past and planned. Get down to see them when you can, but keep your ladies close or you might just lose them.
The treats keep coming as Swedish rockers H.E.A.T. take to the stage to Glenn Fry's 'The Heat Is On'. Cheesy but apt. Pogoing Punk front man Erik Grönwal is a bundle of energy and a whole lot of fun. He constantly jumps into the crowd, taking photos and dancing with the crowd. He frequently borrows phones and films himself with the crowd. Not exactly the shy type. But it remains fun. Backed by Jona Tee on keyboards, Jimmy Jay on bass, Crash (Lars Jarkell) on drums and Dave Dalone on guitars, the five piece are clearly influenced by the likes of Whitesnake and the Scorpions. With Tee's keyboards picking some strong rhythm, the Whitesnake influence is strong and the set filled with Melodic arena Rock. Indeed, on opening track 'Bastard of Society', Dalone, on an exquisite black Les Paul, duals with Tee on keys in an excellent duet. It's pleasing Melodic Rock although with an edge. It's feel good music that I could happily listen to all night. The security may not have been so keen as they were kept busy all night with Grönwal's crowd antics but it was all good natured. 'Beg, Beg, Beg', from their 2010 album 'Freedom Rock' is a real blast, especially as they add a touch of AC/DC's 'Whole Lotta Rosie' and Erma Franklin's 'Piece of My Heart' to the end. A great medley. Closer 'Mannequin Show' is a slower heavier vibe and 'A Shot at Redemption', from 2014's 'Tearing Down The Walls' album, is a fine way for them to sign off to the accompaniment of a happily singing crowd. These boys are definitely a treat and ones I will be looking out for again.
The Swedish link continues with the emergence of Sleaze Rockers Backyard Babies. Entering to the Sex Pistol's 'Frigging In The Rigging' the four piece are celebrating 30 years of rocking, although Dregen on lead guitar, Johan Blomqvist on bass and Peder Carlsson on drums were all members of the previous incarnation Tyrant. In 1989 Nicke Borg joined on lead vocals, rhythm guitar and they changed their name to Backyard Babies. So plenty of years together has made them a tight unit. They have a Punkish look and vibe about them which is reminiscent of Ginger and the Wildhearts. Or even Green Day, although perhaps slightly less Pop. Borg takes centre stage switching between a brown PRS Vela singlecut, a Red Gibson SG and a Gretsch. The songs are short and catchy. 'Dysfunctional Professional' gives us some classic Swedish sleaze whilst 'Shovin Rocks', from their latest album gives us a more Rock and Roll vibe. Dregen's solo's lift this out of the Punk and into the Rock although never over indulgent. His Gibson 335 sound is sweet as a Nötpaj. Switching to acoustic guitar, Borg and Dregen as a duet quieten things down with 'A Song For The Outcast' with Blomqvist and Carlsson returning for the melodic 'Roads'. Both are a delight. But it's back to the electrics, and the Punky vibe for 'Minus Celsius', and their best Rock track of the set 'Th1rt3en Or Nothing'. 'Abandon' is a ballad that builds to a full on sing along rocker and closer 'Brand New Hate' ends on a Punk high.
Tonight's headliners are no strangers to stadium gigs. New Jerseys Skid Row, formed in the 1980's height of hair metal, have played some of the largest stadia in the world. The current line up still boasts three of the original five line up - bassist Rachel Bolan, Guitarist Dave Sabo and guitarist Scotti Hill. But the iconic face of Skid Row was the unassuming Sebastian Bach, the six foot 2 inch blond singer with an extensive vocal range, and equally extensive range of opinions. The majority of the set comprise of tracks from the first two albums - Skid Row and Slave to the Grind - which are iconic 80's metal for those with a penchant for strong vocals. 20 years on from Bach's departure, and following a couple of different frontmen, the band are back with vocalist ZP Theart. The South African has big shoes to fill - literally - in a band that boasts such a catalogue of anthemic songs. So do those size 13 snakeskin boots fit?
Never the quiet unassuming types, Skid Row drape their stage with large US style flags and filter on to the strains of The Ramones 'Blitzkrieg Bop'. All are dressed completely in black and epitomise the Metal scene of the 80's although thankfully without the OTT hairstyles. As the entry music fades, the drums of Rob Hammersmith let rip as the band launch into the first of many classics - 'Slave To The Grind'. Fast paced and punchy, Theart shows us that he has all the skills needed to deliver. Looking like a tall Ronni James Dio, he shares RJD's vocal skills. Well he did front Dragonforce. Yes, he fills those boots and makes them his own. The crowd are here to witness, and join in with, a tour de force of 80's Metal warbling. And they got what they came for. It's a workout for the lungs and neck as headbanging, singing and rocking demand breath in equal measures. "The noose gets tighter round my throat" roars ZP. Just how I'm feeling mate. And 'Big Guns' is what you need for the second track. Lead guitarist Dave 'The Snake' Sabo rips our eardrums out with his sumptuous ESP LTD whilst fills the remnants of our hearing with his sublime Les Paul.
'Psycho Love', with another strong vocal performance by Theart, is followed by 'Sweet Little Sister'. It's all fast paced adrenalin paced Rock designed to break us. No chance. Although we are thankful for a slowing of tempo for the anthemic 'Eighteen And Life'. Not for the voice though as we attempt to split the walls of our small stadium. Thank goodness my terrible tones were lost in the throng. Pass me a beer, we're in for the long haul here. The tempo is back up again for 'Piece Of Me 'and 'Livin' on a Chain Gang' before putting the brakes on for 'Ghost', one of their best tracks from recent years - well 2003 anyway. Rachel, co writer of so many of the Skid Row classics takes to the mike for a few minutes to reminisce over 30 years in the band, before taking vocal duties in the cover of the Ramones 'Psycho Therapy'. And the audience goes mad. What is it with Skid Row and names. ZP is not an abbreviation - it is his name (they are his grandfathers initials). And Rachel is a hybrid of the bassists brother and grandfathers name. For goodness sake, i will be naming myself after my female parent at this rate.....
The goodness just keeps coming with 'Medicine Jar' from their third, and criminally underrated album 'Subhuman Race' before Sabo picks up the acoustic for the ballsy ballad 'I Remember You'. My croaking vocal chords just about give up the 'Ghost' (sorry, that was 3 songs ago) during my rendition but ZP nails it. It's one of those songs that gives me goose bumps, especially when I'm surrounded by a couple of thousand devotees ruining their larynxes with me. Hill includes a tasteful solo and a touch of banter to finish. 'Monkey Business' allows ZP to banter with the crowd before ending with the rapid fire rock 'Making A Mess'. "Sing for your supper, nobody rides for free. Eat your heart out, I'll send it C.O.D." Couldn't have put it better myself.
In true 80's Rock style, the boys exit the stage only to reappear for not one but two encores. It's a bargain night that keeps on giving. 'We Are The Damned' leads into school boy favourite 'Get The Fuck Out'. The last of my pharynx fucked off. 'Mudkicker' and 'In A Darkened Room' lead to the obvious closer 'Youth Gone Wild'. What a song. Don't know about the youth, but we went wild alright. 30 years in the business? How the hell did they last playing at that level? Practice makes perfect I suppose. Hopefully i will be back in shape with a new set of pipes before their set at Download later this year. As my ears ring and the dust settles, I realise I have been lucky enough to witness over six hours of quality Rock. I've been to shorter festivals. What a night. I certainly felt I had been on the receiving end of six of the best. Although thankfully not across my Skid Row. Tonight has been about growing older disgracefully. Thank you Forum, tonight we were B-Side ourselves.
Slave to the Grind
Sweet Little Sister
18 and Life
Piece of Me
Livin' on a Chain Gang
Psycho Therapy (Ramones cover)
I Remember You
Makin' a Mess
We Are the Damned
Get the Fuck Out
In a Darkened Room
Youth Gone Wild