With the winter air chilling outside, it was up to Skid Row and Ugly Kid Joe to turn up the heat in Belfast. But whilst one made the youth go wild, the other seemed to be sinking as fast as quicksand Jesus.
Photo: Eamon O'Neill
It’s a drab October night in Belfast, but inside the Limelight, tonight’s headliners Skid Row are bringing back a touch of glam. It has been twenty-two long years since they last visited the city, and much has changed in that time. The glory days of mega-selling albums, mtv heavy rotation and magazine front covers are long gone, and the venues have downsized from arenas to clubs. Not that any of that matters to tonight’s crowd though, and with a double bill that sees Ugly Kid Joe in tow, they’re ready to party like it’s 1991 all over again. For some, dressed in their tell-tale grey faded t-shirts, who were there the first time around, they’re welcoming back returning heroes. For others, like the two young girls standing behind me who insisted that, yes they were actually eighteen (honest) it’s just so damn cool. Either way, it’s like Grunge never happened.
Skid Row burst into life with Let’s Go from this year’s ‘United World Rebellion’, and there’s a mood of celebration from the off. It’s quickly followed by Big Guns, and trio of tracks from their debut album, with an early airing of 18 And Life eliciting the biggest response. Guitarist Scotti Hill throws shapes and gurns maniacally throughout, and with his low slung bass, Rachel Bolan oozes street punk cred. But there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s loud, obnoxious, and Canadian. It has been many years since Sebastian Bach last fronted this band, but the songs that most have come to hear have his distinctive high-pitched tones stamped all over them. Johnny Solinger, who has now been in the band for an astonishing fourteen years (compared to Bach’s nine-year tenure), is a solid frontman, and does an impressive job, especially on the hits I Remember You, and Monkey Business. The crowd get behind him, and at times, especially during set closer Youth Gone Wild which has everyone in the house singing along to every word, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it didn’t matter who was at the mic. But there’s a burden on his shoulders, and although he acknowledges the past with gutso, there’s just no getting away from the fact that he’s not Sebastian Bach. It is telling that only three tracks form their post-Bach period make tonight’s short set.
Special guests Ugly Kid Joe on the other hand seem to have gained a new lease of life since reforming. Once sharp dividers of opinion, thanks in part to their goofy California surf-bum image, but more so for their string of perceived novelty hit singles, tonight they succeed in winning over all but the most rigid of the audience. Of course Everything About You and Cats In The Cradle get an airing, but unlike the headliners, it’s is the newer material that really shines tonight. Tracks from last year’s superb ‘Stairway To Hell’ leave many to wonder why exactly they hated everything about them in the first place. In Whiftield Crane they have a frontman who is an expert at his craft. He works the audience masterfully, with a series of engaging moves that motivate and involve all, effortlessly lifting the atmosphere to fever pitch.
The 1990’s may be a long time ago, but Ugly Kid Joe have a bright future on the evidence of tonight’s showing. It would be unfair to criticize Skid Row for forging ahead without their estranged ex-singer, however tonight, in comparison they look tired. A band forever in the shadow of their former glories, perhaps only the inevitable reunion will reignite their fire.