Let me preface this whole piece by saying that Skid Row is one of, if not my favourite band of all time and Sebastian Bach is a voice I grew up listening to and adoring from a very early age. So as this review no doubt heads well into the fanboy direction towards the end, you will know why.
As I walk past the front of Melbourne’s picturesque Forum Theatre, it was very easy to see that this crowd was here to relive their glory years. What with double denim and double leather being the outfits of choice for the many punters who were here to the see poster boy of late ’80s heavy metal, Sebastian Bach!
Once the doors opened and the room filled up, we didn’t have to wait long for Gypsy, the sole opening band to grace the massive Forum stage.
The young Sydney three-piece came out all guns blazing, making sure that every person in the room made sure know who they were; what with their big hair being matched by their equally big riffs and monster bass lines, supplied by the incredibly energetic James Squier. Vocalist/Guitarist Tommy Adams stood out to me from the moment his fingers first hit the fretboard and the lyrics came flying out of his mouth. Being stuck behind a mic stand is never an easy obstacle to overcome when you’re a singer/guitarist, but Adams made sure that all eyes were on him with his powerful Paul Di’Anno-esque voice and furious riffs being a real highlight throughout his band’s fantastic set.
It’s always great to see a band has done their research on the crowd that they are playing in front of, with Gypsy getting the older crowd onto their side with a brilliant rendition of the KISS classic ‘Love Gun‘ early on in their set. Having never heard Gypsy’s original songs before, I was blown away by their Judas Priest and pre-Bruce Dickinson Iron Maiden influenced heavy metal, with the riffs hitting hard and the tight rhythm section driving this ship at full speed.
Adams‘ intricate guitar intro of ‘Leaving Home‘ was the perfect way to get new fans in the crowd, with a lot of metal horns being thrown up and heads banging along to his fast picking. The trio’s obvious Judas Priest influence was solidified with a great version of the classic ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’‘, getting a huge positive reception from the mature rock fans in attendance, all now well and truly digging what they were hearing.
Overall these young Sydney upstarts took such a great opening opportunity to shine and they fully ran with it, showing that they are up there with Harlott and Espionage as a shining light in the Australian metal and hard rock scene.
Once the house music (which was a killer mix of Van Halen, Kiss and Rush) faded out, the man everyone was here to see set foot on stage, and they were transported back to their youths, going wild. Opening up with the Skid Row B-side cover of Jimi Hendrix‘s ‘Little Wing‘, you could tell that the band and crowd aline were pumped and ready to sing along together throughout the night.
And now it was time to jump right into the Skid Row originals, with a very surprising playing of ‘Breakin’ Down‘, from the last album that Bach himself sang on, ‘Sub-Human Race‘. Moving onwards, we got a one-two punch of arguably Skid Row’s two biggest songs, with Bach and co. launching into ‘18 And Life‘ and ‘I Remember You‘, both being met with the crowd’s full vocal participation. You can really tell that these two songs were the high school soundtracks for 95% of the people there i the Forum, with raw emotion and pure delight filling the voices and faces of every person singing their hearts out to two these all-time classics.
Being only 22 years old, I have my own memories associated with these songs, but for people who were my age when these songs actually came out, this blast from the past would have been something incredibly special. It was indeed heartwarming to witness.
It was time for a change of pace, with Bach and his three-piece backing band ripping into the riff machine that is ‘Slave To The Grind‘, and the place had well and truly become unglued. It was at this point where Bach’s vocal performance really shined through, with the legendary metal front-man not missing a note or beat, with his distinct voice blasting through the PA and sounding as good as it did on the original 1991 recording.
When I told some of my friends I was coming along tonight a lot of them replied with, “He won’t be that good, it isn’t the 80s anymore” and “his voice will blow out three songs in”. To that, I say, “Not a fucking chance!”. Over the next three songs – ‘Big Guns‘, ‘Sweet Little Sister‘ and ‘Piece Of Me‘ (from Skid Row’s self titled masterpiece) were played in the original keys, with each ear-shattering high note being of perfect pitch, showing that Baz hasn’t lost anything from his impressive vocal ability and range over time.
As the set rolled on we were treated to an impromptu, acapella version of ‘Wasting Time‘, followed by the second ballad from ‘Slave To The Grind‘, ‘In A Darkened Room‘, which was dedicated to guitar god, the late great Dimebag Darrell. Speaking of awesome guitar playing; it was now time for the iconic guitar lick of ‘Monkey Business‘ to ring throughout the freshly renovated Forum, with the crowd getting rejuvenated and ready to party once more. A nice little surprise here was the insertion of the classic Rush tune, ‘Tom Sawyer‘ halfway through ‘Monkey Business‘, because you know… why the hell not?!
What impressed me throughout the entire set was just how tight Bach’s backing band was. Consisting of guitarist Brent Woods, bassist Rob De Luca and Bobby Jarzombek on drums, this three-piece played each song with precision, all while adding their own unique touch to the classic tunes. They kept the heavy songs heavy and retained the ballads to their epic originality but made them their own so it wasn’t as if you were merely watching a Skid Row tribute band play.
It’s safe to say that my very high expectations of this night were well and truly met, and at some points, blew them out of the damn building. Especially with Bach’s incredible vocal performance showing full control and consistency throughout the energetic and pulsating hour and a half set. For someone who wasn’t even a glimmer in my parent’s eyes when all of these classic songs were released, it felt like even I was transported back to the late ’80s and early ’90s thanks to Bach’s top tier performance that proved why he is still one of the real monsters of rock and heavy metal today.