What better way to start the weekend than a Friday night spent in the company of a few hundred Skid Row fans wanting confirmation that the band are rejuvenated with the arrival of new frontman Erik Gronwall and their new album ‘The Gangs All Here’.
Fresh from their spell on the road with HEAT, Collateral was first on the line-up, opening with ‘Lullaby’ the number of days on the road see the band very much at ease on the stage even with the challenge of a couple of technical issues. A short and full-on set that had the crowd rocking out along with the band. The now familiar melodies and lyrics of “Mr Big Shot’ and ‘Midnight Queen’ see a smiling and energetic Angelo Tristan helping to lift the temperature in the Great Hall. This gig had been upgraded to the bigger room due to strong ticket sales which was good to hear, the larger stage allowing Todd Winger to drift around the stage, delivering splintering riffs to complement Angelo’s melodic vocals. Plenty of shout outs to Enuff Z’Nuff and Skid Row raise cheers from the fans as the band leaves the stage.
The familiar frame of Chip Z and his band enter the Great Halls stage, ripping straight in to ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ The intense smoke and lack of lights didn’t hold the band back, with the crowd geared up for original support ‘Winger’ it was going to be a hard spot to fill. A friendly response from the crowd with good singalongs for the other Beatle cover of Eleanor Rigby and a decent version of Wings classic ‘Jet’. The band are tight, and Chip is his usual self with his beat-up bass, bedecked with gaffer tape holding the strap together, I bet it’s been through the mill over the years!
The stage is cleared then as the white searchlights are moved into position around Rob Hammersmith’s drumkit, the smoke and red lights reminiscent of many a rock club in the 90’s. the gloom clawing its way over the barrier and into the great hall, the PA’s explode with the familiar walk on song of our headliners, Skid Row, ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’.
Our heroes rip into ‘Slave to the Grind’ as we get our first glimpse of Erik Gronwall as frontman. Wow! Hitting his stride from the off the enigmatic singer showed why the band asked him to join them. The tone of his voice is perfect for the old songs and the new.
‘The Threat’ sees guitarists Dave Snake Sabo and Scotti Hill grinning across the stage at each other, an invigorated Rachel Bolan and Rob Hammersmith providing the beats for Erik to keep up with and he so does. This is a band rejuvenated 100%. Always delivering a stunning show but on this occasion, the energy and power of Erik have lifted the band to the heights akin to their early band days. They all look happy, the crowd are way beyond happy, bouncing along to the songs, singing along, Erik beaming as he screams and belts out song after song.
The songs suit his vocal style, he makes it look easy and sounds flawless. I have always liked Erik as a singer, but this is something else. ‘Big Guns’, ‘18 and Life’, classics sounding new, new songs ‘The Gangs All Here’ and ‘Time Bomb’ sounding classic Skid Row with shout out chorus’s and layers of backing vocals. I’m almost stunned with ‘I Remember You’. This is how the song used to sound if not even better – what an amazing voice, spinetingling, Snake still the master of his trade looking happy and relaxed as he leaves the hard work to Erik.
Whirling round the stage, playing to the crowd, engaging with them, and declaring his love for Cardiff, this is one gelled band. It feels like Erik’s rightful place, he was amazing in his previous band H.E.A.T but with his illness and then the return of Kenny Leckremo, Erik has truly found his right fit, he looks healthy if not a little weary by the time he brings ‘Youth Gone Wild’ to a close but then again so does the crowd all energy reserves spent in making the night a truly phenomenal one.
Brilliant – all the band, just brilliant!
Words & images: Lindsay Smith