Skid Row, Bad Touch and Toseland @ Manchester Academy
Can’t imagine Skid Row without Sebastian Bach? Neither could I, until this happened…
Skid Row’s first two albums – the self-titled debut from 1989 and Slave To The Grind from 1991 – had a huge impact on me when I was first acquiring a taste for punk, hard rock and heavy metal in my mid-teens. I wore my white (radical at the time) Skid Row T-shirt - the one with the image of the Mona Lisa wearing bassist Rachel Bolan’s nose-chain - with defiance and pride.
I loved their music, their image and their don’t-give-a-**** attitude, to which frontman (and Rock God) Sebastian Bach was intrinsic. Now, a Skid Row without Bach?? Well that would be incomprehensible, unimaginable, unthinkable. Frankly, just not cricket. A bit like a Guns ‘n’ Roses without Axl or a Bon Jovi without Jon. How could it possibly still be Skid Row? I was about to find out!
Supporting on the United World Rebellion UK tour were Norwich-based Southern-fried rockers Bad Touch and Toseland from Yorkshire, fronted by the former double World Superbike Champion, James Toseland. On 14th March, the tour brought them all to Academy 2, situated in Manchester University’s SU building.
Bad Touch opened the show, with charismatic singer Stevie Westwood calling to the crowd “Good evening Manchester, let’s get this party started!” Well, the quintet definitely brought the party to our City, with a lively set featuring songs from their highly acclaimed second album, Truth Be Told.
The band’s rich, melodious, Black Crowes-esque sound filled every crevice of the venue and each tune was sung and executed with energy and impeccable musicianship. Penultimate song Outlaw was simply electrifying and was followed by the popular feel-good track, 99%, ending the set on a high and leaving a broad smile on everybody’s face.
Toseland were up next and came on stage to the theme tune from Bottom! They played a six-song set, showcasing tracks from both of their albums, whilst a third is currently being recorded and due to be released before the end of the year. James, looking clean-cut and dapper in a smart jacket, performed with tremendous confidence and stage presence.
Life Is Beautiful was particularly well received and included an excellent guitar solo. James also played keyboard on several of the songs, including Fingers Burned and Renegade, which had the crowd enthusiastically clapping their hands above their heads. By the time the set ended with the high-octane Hearts And Bones, everyone was well and truly warmed up.
Slave To The Grind marked Skid Row’s hard-hitting entrance, four years since the New Jersey rockers last toured the UK. Taking a large mouthful of water from a bottle and then spraying it over the crowd, ex-Dragonforce singer ZP Theart assumed the mantle of badass frontman with swagger and ease. Original member Rachel Bolan, still wearing his trademark nose-chain, thanked the fans for coming and told us what a huge influence the new wave of British heavy metal had been during the band’s early days.
Unsurprisingly, the set consisted almost entirely of hits from the first two albums, with the addition of a very nice tribute to The Ramones – Psycho Therapy – sung by Bolan. Last song Monkey Business turned into a stunning jam between guitarists Snake Sabo and Scotti Hill, who performed in a way that only musicians who have played together as long as they have can. After jokingly declaring “This is obviously the closest we’ll ever come to getting into a University”, Sabo thanked the fans for enabling them to play music for a living, adding that the UK was like a home from home and how humbled they were to be here.
The band returned for a three-song encore, culminating in the triumphant, fist-pumping anthem, Youth Gone Wild (maybe the last word should be dropped…)
There was a palpable building of anticipation, everyone waiting for the ‘Skid Row’ callback, which the crowd delivered with fervour!
Skid Row looked and sounded incredible and I was taken right back to how I felt when I first heard them. Okay, so they’re a nostalgia act now and people are always going to compare any subsequent frontmen to the original. There’s no denying that had Bach still been in the band, they would be filling arenas rather than Student Unions. Theart is and never will be Bach, no-one will and there’s just no escaping that, but he did a fantastic job on the vocals and was far more convincing than I could have imagined.
I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed every single moment and should Skid Row tour the UK again, I for one would welcome them back with open arms, with or without Bach. Horns up!