Epic Studios, Norwich November 18, 2022
by Adam Aiken
Collateral open proceedings with a set that would have gone down well at the Whisky A Go-Go back in the day.
In fact, squint a little bit and singer Angelo Tristan could be Stephen Pearcy, although the Ratt man was never supported with such great backing vocals as we get tonight from Tristan’s colleagues.
Their harmonies shine throughout, underpinned by heavy riffs in songs such as Promiseland.
Midnight Queen sees Tristan pick up a six-string to make a trio of guitarists while No Place For Love is made for audience participation.
The Kent outfit get better as the set goes on. There’s an atmospheric guitar solo – Floyd-esque, even – from Todd Winger before more great harmonies in Sin In The City.
They close with a heavy rendition of Merry Go Round, and it sets the scene perfectly for a headline act that most certainly were at home on the Sunset Strip back during its sleazy heyday.
Skid Row hit the scene in the late-80s during the golden era of hair-metal. And while their self-titled debut album might not have been as iconic as Appetite For Destruction, Pump or Slippery When Wet, it has dated much better than a lot of other stuff released around that time.
They also took a risk in releasing a much heavier follow-up album in Slave To The Grind – and that worked, too. So it’s no surprise that the vast bulk of their live output today is taken up with songs from those first two records.
Slave To The Grind (the song) is a blistering opener and is quickly followed by The Grind, which precedes a run of songs from their debut release.
One of them – 18 & Life – is a reminder that even their ballads from those days were relatively heavy. While the pouting Sebastian Bach-era line-up might have shared magazine covers with the likes of Poison and Warrant, there was always much more to Skid Row compared with most of their peers.
Piece Of Me is their Mama Kin and another early highlight tonight, while at the other end of the set both Riot Act and Monkey Business sound as fresh today as they did back in ’91.
The second half of Skid Row’s European tour has seen dates in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and France sandwiched, somewhat bizarrely, by appearances in Yarmouth and Norwich.
It means the T-shirts and tour posters make Norfolk look as though it’s the centre of the UK rock scene – something that most of us around here, unfortunately, know is not the case.
But tonight sees a healthier turnout than at many other recent gigs in the city, and it’s unlikely that any of the previous shows on this tour have sounded as good as this. Not for the first time, the sound at Epic surpasses that at many other much more established venues.
Three-fifths of Skid Row have been there since the beginning, but Dave “Snake” Sabo, Scotti Hill and Rachel Bolan do far more than simply mail it in.
Bolan, in particular, is keen to tell us how much the UK means to them, and it doesn’t come across as the clichéd nonsense that audiences are so often patronised with.
Sabo, meanwhile, deals nicely with a good-natured but unintelligible heckler (“I have no idea what you just said but that was funny as shit,” followed by “I swear to God I wish I knew what you were saying. But here’s to you…”)
But it’s Erik Grönwall who’s the cherry on the top tonight, with the frontman delivering a fabulous performance.
He’s not a Bach lookalike but he’s certainly a soundalike. In fact, if there’s any minor criticism, it’s that he sounds a little too polished – at times, it’s almost as if Bach’s studio output is being blasted over the top of the rest of the performance.
This perfection sometimes strays into the realms of a tribute act, but in terms of taking us back to where it all began it’s a 10/10.
It will be good if Grönwall can stick around a little longer than a couple of the other singers who’ve had the job in recent years. The genuine warmth he appears to share with his bandmates on stage suggests he can.
Fingers crossed, anyway, because Skid Row’s latest output is pretty decent. Classic bands often unconvincingly shoehorn a couple of new songs into the middle of the show, bringing the whole thing to a screeching halt, but that’s not the case tonight.
Two newbies – The Gang’s All Here and Time Bomb – slip neatly into the set and are natural bedfellows with the older stuff. In fact, Time Bomb is good enough to be part of the encore, alongside I Remember You.
But it’s never going to take the place of Youth Gone Wild as the finale – and, right on cue, it’s that anthem that brings things to a triumphant close.