It might be the middle of the week, but the people of the West Midlands know where to be tonight – KK’s Steel Mill as Skid Row kick off their UK tour, armed with their new album, The Gang’s All Here and new frontman, Erik Grönwall. Therefore, it’s not surprising that there’s already a hive of activity in the venue by the time the live music kicks off.
Undaunted by being the openers, Collateral attempt to make the most of their short time. Having only played in KK’s a couple of days previously, their jokes fall on welcome ears. Which is the best part of their set, frankly. Having never seen them previously, I’m in no rush to ever see them again. Mainly because if I want to listen to a Bon Jovi tribute act, I’ll either go and see one or I’ll stick a streaming playlist on to listen to Bon Jovi’s best songs. But I’m not a Bon Jovi fan to begin with so it’s a moot point.
Admittedly, there’s passion and drive in the performance, it’s just hampered by the band’s lack of skill and polish nor is there any chemistry between the band to speak of. So by the time they finish, there’s a sigh of relief as there’s a high chance that what follows can’t be as unenjoyable as this.
As Enuff Z’Nuff take to the stage, there’s a welcome roar from the crowd as they kick things off with The Beatles’ “The Magical Mystery Tour” and after a dip into their 1989 album, they revisit The Beatles with “Eleanor Rigby”. With the covers out of the way, they hammer through a smattering of songs from across their lengthy career and with the exception of a rather out-dated and misogynistic term for women, there’s belief that they really do enjoy playing the UK. Indeed, their hair metal/power pop blend is a good fit for tonight delivered by a tight and polished band. They ably get the crowd warmed up, so much so that there’s a great response when they remind the crowd they’ll be headlining The Robin in just a few weeks.
Now, for the men of the hour as Skid Row explode onto the stage with “Slave to the Grind”. If you’re going to get the crowd onside from the off and you’re Skid Row, that’s the song you’re going to use. As Grönwall uses every inch of the stage by the end of the first number, this is the band and him planting their flag together as a unit – this is a rejuvenated Skid Row. As the set plumbs the depths of Slave to the Grind and their self-titled album, the band give the assembled crowd what they want.
While “18 and Life” puts in an early appearance to get the crowd singing along, it’s by this point it seems strange that there’s not been any new material and it’s not until the halfway point where the title track of the new album is aired. It gets as warm a reception as the classics and shows the quality of the new material where it slots in seamlessly. There’s a whole bundle of energy on-stage, mainly from Grönwall and having not seen him in close to five years, time hasn’t slowed him down in the slightest. As he entertains the crowd, he takes the reins on the songs and handles them as if they’re his own, honouring Sebastian Bach’s own prime vocal prowess without trying to be Bach.
However, the rest of the band bring their own dose of energy and it’s not a case of “young frontman making up for a bunch of older guys”. The rest of the band smash out the songs with the same vigour as they would have thirty years ago but now with the addition of experience to make for a far more polished performance. As both Rachel Bolan and Dave “The Snake” Sabo each take a moment to address the crowd, it never feels like they’re bulking out the set or leave you wishing they’d just get back to the music. Naturally, it’s towards the end of the set where they keep the obvious tracks with that massive ballad of “I Remember You”, the only other song from the new album in “Time Bomb” before the obvious but very welcome finale of “Youth Gone Wild”.
For the first night of the tour, it’s a victorious night for Skid Row. Whilst it would have been great to hear some more songs from the new album, especially with the quality of the songs, they manage to hit all the ones most of the crowd would want to hear to relive their youth. But this is a performance which shows the proof of concept shown on The Gang’s All Here and with Grönwell bedded in well with the band, it doesn’t feel like he’s there as a hired gun and instead, feels more like he’s found his true self as a frontman and where he belongs.
Photos by Shaun Hulme of SRK Lens