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O2 Academy, Islington, London, England

July 9th, 2014

Sebastian Bach

Former Skid Row frontman sure knows how to put on a show. Maybe it’s all that experience from being on Broadway or the fact that Sebastian Bach just has a natural ability with regards to keeping the audience in the palm of his sweaty hand, because tonight’s show in London was a spectacular feast for the ears and eyes.

The Islington O2 Academy was packed to the rafters and Seb seemed genuinely honoured to be on that stage. Towering over the audience like some leggy titan, Bach not only showcased his stunning vocal range but by his side his formidable band crunched, crashed and charmed the audience with ease.

Opening with the monstrous ‘Slave To The Grind’ Bach confirmed what we all knew; that the present version of Skid Row just cannot compete with such a leviathan of metal who effortlessly married his classic earlier material with a bombastic set of contemporary head crushers.

Guitarist Brent Woods (Wildside, Vince Neil) provided such a cacophony that at times it felt like I was at one of those 80s thrash gigs. Bach’s hair flailed wildly casting beads of sweat to the first few rows as if they were under a waterfall. The bass of Rob De Luca (Spread Eagle, UFO) complimented the devastating skin beats of Bobby Jarzombek (Riot, Fates Warning, Halford) – both of them creating a wall of sound throughout the fantastic ‘Temptation’, but more so in constructing a beefier swagger for the Skid Row classics.

‘The Threat’ and ‘Big Guns’ never sounded so formidable as Bach flung is brown leather jacket aside and took his banshee wails to new levels as the rough-edged ‘Piece Of Me’ was contrasted by the melodic strains of ‘Harmony’, where the crowds swaying arms proved to be an engaging spectacle.

Of course, the big hits kept on coming and the anthemic ‘18 & Life’ is deliriously lapped up by the chanting crowd, while ‘American Metalhead’ raises the roof as Bach introduces the PainmuseuM cover as “England Metalhead!”, only to muse over the incorrect grammar before the machine gun percussion, rattling bass and the high pitched delivery gets us punching our chest in primal joy.

‘TunnelVision’ notches up another victim, but for all the serious mechanics Sebastian Bach is a true showman too; he toys with the crowd, engages in banter and is quick to praise Britain’s ability at inventing heavy metal, although his humorous nod towards sickly sweet glam rockers Wrathchild UK seems to float over the heads of many.

The only slight lull in proceedings comes with ‘Taking Back Tomorrow’ and ‘In A Darkened Room’, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it and that’s the main thing, especially the dedication to Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell. From thereon it’s a case of more crowd delights and staggering vocals with ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘I Remember You’ (with its customary dig at Kerrang! magazine), while ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ and the closing ‘Youth Gone Wild’ are both tumultuous numbers best served in your face!

It seems to have been an age since Sebastian Bach last graced the London stage but tonight he, his band and the sound engineer were on fire and they left a trail of scorch marks on the sweat-soaked boards. It’s just a shame they had to go because believe me, they really didn’t want to.

Neil Arnold