gang bang!

It might of taken them 20 years, but finally “The Gang’s All Back” to Vancouver.

It was a turbulent time in the 1990’s for metal.   Grunge rock was the new kid in town and took no prisoners as Alice in Chains, Sound Garden, Pearl Jam and others pretty much wiped out all the hair metal bands that had their day in the 80’s.   If you put out a soft record at that time, you were OUT.  Record companies dropped you as bands like Ratt, Dokken, Cinderella, Poison, Warrant and many others albums were found in the Walmart bargain bin or completely ignored.

One of those popular “hair metal” bands was Skid Row, who have weathered the storm of not only Grunge, but Nu-metal and other genres as well.  They finally made their way back to Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom after nearly 20 years and are headlining this show with supporting act Sierra Pilot as well as co-headliners Buckcherry, whom also have had their share of challenges over the years.

Erik Gronwall

Skid Row didn’t come out unscathed however, as they lost the voice of the band with the charismatic Sebastian Bach in 1996.   Then they went through a few vocalists since then, and in 2022 they released their 6th album called The Gang’s All Here with another new vocalist by the name of Erik Gronwall, who we will see tonight.  The front three that we saw back in the late 80’s/90’s with Dave “The Snake” Sabo (guitar), Rachel Bolan (bass) and Scotti Hill (guitar) are still in the band.  Rob Hammersmith on drums has been with them since 2010.

Before I had known Skid Row were coming to Vancouver, I had run into a video on YouTube with Erik belting out a Bon Jovi song and I was immediately impressed with this guys voice.  I was curious how it holds up after a dozen songs, night after night of rigorous touring.  Tonight, I am going to find out.

These boys from New Jersey have a pretty cool stage setup,  which kinda looks like a 4th of July celebration with a American flag motif with a background and in red, white and blue, with stars and stripes.

They start the show with the raucous “Slave to the Grind” from 1991’s Slave to the Grind album, then on to “Big Guns” from the self titled Skid Row album.  These 2 right off the bat, got the audience into the show right away.

Dave “The Snake” Sabo

Erik’s voice is a real trip back to the 90’s, as he can emulate almost identical to Sebastian Bach’s wails and screams.  But I think the real test is song 3 with “18 and Life” where his powerful vocals really shine.  Not only can he sing, he’s got some great stage presence too, maybe not the attitude strut that Sebastian has however.

These guys know where their bread is buttered however, and they keep cranking out the older stuff with “Piece of Me and “Livin’ on a Chain Gang”.   Mid set at song 6, they slide a new one from The Gang’s All Here album called “Resurrected”.   That’s an interesting introduction that tells me “hey, here are the old ones now we are back to life”.

Rachel Bolan (bass)

The only low point for me in this setlist came right at song 7, with “Psycho Therapy”, which is a Ramones cover that bassist Rachel Bolen (still sports that signature nose chain) sings and does an adequate job, but generally falls flat to me.   I don’t know if that is designed to give Erik a rest or what, but I would’ve much rather had some more Skid Row material.

Another new one at song 8, with “Time Bomb”, it’s an alright song that really stretches the legs of Erik’s voice with some nice screams in that one.  It’s a pretty good song, not sure I like the “tick tick tick” part, but they rocked it overall.

Rob Hammersmith

Now for the final four songs of the evening, with one of their biggest hits ever, with “I Remember You” from the debut Skid Row album.  So how does Erik’s voice handle this at song 9?  Pretty dead on actually, compared with Sebastian on that recording and Erik really owns it on stage too.  Very good stage presence from this guy.

Thereafter, we got “Monkey Business” and Erik gets some crowd participation along with intros to the band.  It pretty good but I miss the sass from Sebastian on this one.

They squeeze one more in from the new album with “The Gang’s All here”, this song rocks pretty hard too.  Definitely the best of the 3 new songs they played this night.  Erik jumps off the stage in the photo pit area and does some impromptu meet and greets with those in the front of the barrier.   Dave and Scotti still rip on guitar, and with Rachel and Rob on the back end play all these songs effortlessly like they have a million times before.

Scotti Hill

One more, and you guessed it, “Youth Gone Wild” which kept us all until the end in anticipation.  This is the song I discovered the band back on MTV.  Back 35 years ago, it was a heavy metal anthem for all us rebels, great party tune too.   Near the end of the song they released giant balloons which i rarely see this kinfd of fun at the ¾ full Commodore Ballroom, nice prop to make everyone leave happy!

All in all, I was pretty entertained here.   I am not going to lie, this is my first Skid Row show, and I was aching to hear all the classics and they provided all them all in spades.  Erik is an excellent singer.  Is he Sebastian Bach level?  Well, Sebastian is 55 now, Erik is 36.  Sebastian does struggle abit with some of these screams whereas Erik sings exactly like 90’s Sebastian.  HOWEVER, Sebastian has that swagger and pissed off attitude that is sorely missed in the performance overall.    BUT you know, I left satisfied hearing all these songs and yes, so did everyone else.  I think alot of people were taken back Erik’s pipes, as he can really belt it out when the time is needed through the entire set.    That’s the biggest stigma that this band will always have, and that is that Sebastian VS Erik (or whomever) constant comparison.  It might take few albums to rid the “It’s not Skid Row without Sebastian” or “He is no Sebastian” or “No Sebastion, rename the band”.  Frankly, those people need to let go, and realize the 3 others in the band wrote the majority of all the songs.   I mean what do you do as a band?   You’ve done this all your life and someone is out of the band, you don’t just quit, it’s you livelihood.   Furthermore, you own the name, so why not?  Much like your job, if someone quits, you get someone else that can do the job.  But I digress here, this was definitely alot of fun for me, even nostalgic, but go check them out at least and you be the judge!

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