Skid Row & Ugly Kid Joe, Limelight, Belfast – 29th October 2013

In these difficult economic times, it makes financial sense – for both the fans and the acts concerned – for bands to team up and offer the best possible deal for their combined fan bases:  it’s a win/win, as they say in marketing circles, with both the bands and their followers benefiting in obvious ways.  Tonight’s gig – halfway through their collective trek around the UK and Ireland – very much proved this point, with a packed house of fans enjoying a quality double bill for a fraction of the cost which it most likely would have cost to see both acts separately, thus producing the best possible atmosphere for the co-headliners to feed off…

Dead City Ruins by Marc Leach Photography
Dead City Ruins by Marc Leach Photography

First up, Melbourne emigres Dead City Ruins are a new name to many in the room and, despite having to go on virtually as the doors opened (at the unearthly hour of 6pm as well), they quickly make many new friends with their hard-hitting, sleazy grind and humping riffs.  Vocalist Jake Wiffen is certainly a charismatic and confident front man, while the rest of the band – guitarists Tommy Teabag and Sean Blanchard, bassist Micky Quee and drummer Andy – set about their jobs with equal aplomb and certainly:  the songs are nothing spectaular in themselves, but do the job of getting the party started and the band’s enjoyment of what they are doing flows easily from the stage and into the growing crowd, who react with appropriate enthusiasm.

As the strains of their ‘In Your Face’ rap intro starts to fade, Ugly Kid Joe frontman Whit Crane saunters on stage as if he himself has just wandered in off the street to watch the band, hands his black back pack to a roadie and immediately launches in his own opening rap.  The singer is quickly walking along the security barriers, shaking hands and borrowing cameras to take photos, displaying the easy yet genuine charm which is his trademark (if such a thing can be applied to an individual).

Ugly Kid Joe by Marc Leach Photography
Ugly Kid Joe by Marc Leach Photography

However, while Crane is displaying almost boundless energy, and the band are doing their level best to keep up with his unrelenting pace, there is something seriously wrong… large proportions of the crowd are just standing staring at the stage, with even the likes of the riotous ‘Neighbor’ :  yes, the response is suitably enthusiastic, but no one is dancing… but, then, maybe they just haven’t got over the day time blues yet as slowly but surely Whit’s invitations to “get your hands in the air” start to be obeyed.  When they played this exact same venue virtually the same time last year, UKJ were on fire:  tonight, by the time they reach ‘Devil’s Paradise’ it’s like try to extinguish a volcano with a bottle of lemonade…

‘Cats In The Cradle’ is simultaneously haunting and rousing, with Whit standing on top of the monitors mouthing the lyrics as the crowd really comes alive on the huge singalong chorus, while ‘Goddamn Devil’ rips the place apart and ‘Everything About You’ decimates what is left, before the surprising finale of Motorhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ leaves both the band and the fans alike with huge smiles on their faces.  As mentioned above, I saw UKJ on this stage 12 months ago:  tonight, the same band made memories of that night so distant they have long disappeared over the horizon!

Track list:

Intro / V.I.P. / Neighbor / C.U.S.T. / Panhandlin’ Prince / So Damn Cool / No One Survives / Devil’s Paradise / Cat’s In The Cradle / I’m Alright / Milkman’s Son / Goddamn Devil /Everything About You / Ace Of Spades

Skid Row by Marc Leach Photography
Skid Row by Marc Leach Photography

Making their return to Belfast after an unforgiveable 22 year gap, Skid Row hit the stage hard and furious and determined to make their mark, with opening ‘Big Guns’ firing on all cylinders.  Although an extremely small percentage of the crowd consistently ask “where’s Sebastian?” (most of them shut up simultaneously with the discovery that a sharp kick in the gonads actually does bring tears to your eyes), this is most definitely a different beast from way back then:  although the core of the band – guitarists Scotti Hill and Snake Sabo, together with bassist Rachel Bolan – is still the same, vocalist Johnny Solinger has been fronting the outfit for a much longer time than his jumped up predecessor (regular readers will not need me to remind them of how many in Belfast view Mr Bach after his antics here last year) and certainly has made the role his own in the 18-years or so since he took it over.

For the third time this evening, it is a pleasure to watch a great live band setting about their job with unbridled enthusiasm and passion:  as Solinger comments early on, this is “just a band and a rock ‘n’ roll crowd” and the energy and interaction between the two parties remains undiminished as the former treat to latter to a consummately professional set, albeit built around songs which date from the period of their previous Belfast visit.  The likes of ‘Makin A Mess’ and ‘Piece Of Me’ are rattled through at a frenetic pace, while ’18 And Life’ sees the inevitable camera phones raised to capture its every nuance, and ‘In A Darkened Room’ is simply immense in both its density and ferocity.

Solinger pauses proceedings briefly at the start of the incendiary ‘Kings Of Demolition’ to explain the concept behind the band’s new ‘United World Rebellion’ project, before Rachel Bolan takes over lead vocal duty for an angst-ridden cover of The Ramones’ ‘Psycho Therapy’.  From there, it’s a fairly predictable run in to the set finale of ‘Monkey Business’ – during which the guy beside me nearly takes the head off me for the umpteenth time with his fist-punching – and the double encore of ‘Slave To The Grind’ and ‘Youth Gone Wild’:  but, it’s energetic and entertaining, and showcases a band who still know how to deliver damn good rock ‘n’f’n’ roll (baby)…

It may seem somewhat ironic for a bunch of men in their 40s to be singing 20-year old songs about teenage rebellion, but c’est la vie – and, on tonight’s evidence, I can probably guarantee that it won’t be another two decades before Skid Row return to this part of the world… as one fan wrote on Facebook afterwards:  “can we do it all again soon?”

Set list:

Let’s Go / Big Guns / Makin’ A Mess / Piece Of Me / 18 And Life / Thick Is The Skin / Riot Act / In A Darkened Room / Kings Of Demolition / Psycho Therapy / I Remember You / Monkey Business


Slave To The Grind / Youth Gone Wild

Photographs by Marc Leach.  Check out more photographs on our gallery:

About Mark Ashby

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