Skid Row plays first canadian date in Ottawa

August 22nd, 2014 by  |  Published in Concerts

Skid Row at Obsession Live Lounge

Skid Row’s founder and bassist, Rachel Bolan, sings a tribute to Tommy Ramone.

Sunday night in Ottawa was home to a night of pure hard rockin’ bliss with what was truly one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of 2014 for me. After nearly 28 years of a career that has seen its share of peaks and valleys, Skid Row proved tonight that they are better than ever. With the release of their newly released EP, “Rise Of The Damnation Army – United World Rebellion – Chapter Two”, they are currently on a massive world tour, with Ottawa’s Obsession Live Lounge having been the first Canadian stop.

Despite the changes the band has undergone, the songwriting team of bassist, Rachel Bolan and guitarist, Dave (Snake) Sabo, has remained the constant thread since the band’s inception in 1986. Guitarist Scotti Hill has also been on board from the very beginning. Rob Hammersmith replaced Dave Gara on drums in 2010, and frontman, Johnny Solinger has been the amazing voice of Skid Row since late 1999.

Skid Row at Obsession Live Lounge

Lead vocalist of Skid Row, Johnny Solinger.

The band saw enormous success with their first two albums, “Skid Row” (1989) and “Slave To The Grind” (1991), with the first having gone five times platinum and the second having debuted at number one on the Billboard charts – the first rock album to have ever achieved this. Their third album, “Subhuman Race” (1995), received high praise, although the face of rock music had taken a temporary turn into the grunge era, with many of the harder rock acts feeling the rippling effects of lagging popularity. During this time, tensions and drama had escalated within the band, leading to the departure of their then lead vocalist, Sebastian Bach in 1996. The remaining band members spun off into side projects of their own, including one they formed as a collective unit, Ozone Monday. They delved into writing fresh, heavier rock songs, adding singer Shawn McCabe into the mix. But over a short period of time, the boys felt the desire to pick up the ball where they had left it, find a new lead singer, and get Skid Row back on the road. Enter Texas native, Johnny Solinger, who was summoned to try out for the part. He arrived, prepared to deliver a handful of songs, and midway through the first one, they knew they had their man. They were blown away by Solinger’s vocal ability, which more than suited the band’s song material, and cancelled all other auditions.

In 2003, marking eight years since their last studio album, Skid Row released their fourth effort, “Thick Skin”. They would re-unite with former producer, Michael Wagener to follow up with a fifth album, “Revolutions Per Minute” (2006). Last year, the boys decided to produce a series of EP’s, whereby a handful of songs could be unleashed at a time, keeping their fans supplied with fresh, new music. The series is entitled, “United World Rebellion”, with “Chapter One”, released just last year. “Chapter Two: Rise Of The Damnation Army”, hit the shelves earlier this month, and a third one is expected down the road.

After the instant success of their first album, their music has veered towards a harder rock format, progressing over the years to include a more modern edged style. It still retains all their signature rock anthem power that continues to feed the hungriest angst of our youth – and some of us big kids too. The lyrics are rich in themes of self empowerment, built around strong, wide-ranged vocal melodies, peppered with plenty of long sustains, and pulled off with ease by Solinger.

Skid Row have kept their fans in mind when choosing songs for their set list. Only a few from their latest EP releases were performed, spaced out nicely among selections of their earlier work, the majority of those being from their first two albums.

Skid Row at Obsession Live Lounge

Frontman Johnny Solinger and guitarist Scotti Hill.

The evening exploded to a packed house of rock hungry fans with “Let’s Go”, a powerful number off their first EP. Then came a series of back to back songs from their first album, beginning with the steady rockin’ pace of “Big Guns”, with a thunderous bass line I could feel in my chest. Next, came the power chord madness of “Making A Mess”, followed by “Piece Of Me”, and the anticipated fan favorite, “18 And Life”, during which the crowd proceeded to take over the vocals.

At this point, the give and take between the band and the crowd was overwhelming. You could feel an electric vibe in the air, with Solinger having won over the audience right from the get go. His stage presence was dynamic, he harnassed the passion of the music, and I loved watching his interaction with the audience. He took a moment to thank the Canadian fans for their support over the years, as well as acknowledge the fact that the strength and longevity of the band has also been attributed to their determination and unwavering desire of just making and performing music. Having said that, they proceeded with, “Thick Is The Skin”, a song about rising from the ashes and living for today. I also enjoyed the dramatic tone of “In A Darkened Room”, a track from their second album, as well as “I Remember You”- a timeless piece from their first album Solinger calls the band‘s ‘forever‘ song, which featured Snake Sabo on acoustic guitar. I was also drawn to one of their more recent tracks, “Kings Of Demolition”, which offered relentless, hard-driving vocals and some delicious demonic tones coming from Hill’s Bootleg brand guitar.

Midway through the show, Bolan paid tribute to one of the fallen in the world of punk rock, Tommy Ramone, who recently died in July of this year. In his honour, he sang the only cover song of the night, “Psycho Therapy”, from their 1983 album, “Subterranean Jungle”. The night ended with “Slave To The Grind”, and finally with another hit from their first album, “Youth Gone Wild”, which spurned on more chanting from the audience. And just like that, the hour and a half flew by, leaving a room full of gloriously rocked out people, still reeling from a band that continues to deliver the goods to their army of fans around the world.

Skid Row at Obsession Live Lounge

Guitarist/backing vocalist, Scotti Hill.

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