There was a time, many moons ago, when Skid Row could potentially be described as ‘cool’; a time when Bush Sr. reigned supreme and Batman films were still simple affairs. This all changed, however, when grunge arrived on the scene and the music industry rapidly lost its taste for uber-macho dudebro party rock, calling time on the careers of glam metal bands the world over. Most of these acts simply fizzled out into obscurity, unable to adapt to the new angsty, overtly serious climate they’d been forced into. Others bravely soldiered on, with varying degrees of success. Skid Row is one such band who, even with once-iconic singer Sebastian Bach having left over a decade ago, stubbornly refuse to let the dream die.
Supported by fellow retro rock artefacts – the reformed Ugly Kid Joe – Skid Row brought their United World Rebellion tour (yep, you read correctly) to the Club Academy. Playing an hour long show – suspiciously brief for a band with 25 years of material to draw from – the set relied almost entirely on tracks from their first two multi-platinum albums Skid Row and Slave to the Grind, with only a handful of latter-day tunes making an appearance. The result, despite frontman Johnny Solinger’s early proclamation that the gig would mix ‘old school’ with ‘new school’, was a shameless nostalgia exercise, albeit one that its sold out crowd seemed happy to indulge in.
Songs seemed to bleed into each other throughout, chugging riff following chugging riff, and Solinger was doing his best Axl Rose impression to varying degrees of success over the top, complete with bandana and Ray Ban shades. Big power ballads ’18 and Life’ and ‘I Remember You’ were the most successfully executed tracks of the night, and were greeted with enthusiastic sing-alongs by the audience clearly eager to re-experience the songs of their youth. Skid Row’s musicians are a tight and technically proficient band – unsurprising after decades of practice – but the lack of dynamics and variation in the songs robbed them of their chance to shine, leaving the whole thing seeming half-hearted and uninvolving.
It’s no surprise that a Skid Row gig in the present day would come off as dated and tired; their musical approach and overall image – not to mention choice of setlist –has barely changed in nearly thirty years. It’s all enjoyable enough if you don’t take it too seriously, but unless you’re eager to see what it’d be like to be an extra in a Wayne’s World sketch, it’s probably best to leave the past in the past.