Review by John Jeffrey - Photos by Diana MacDonald (except LA Guns photos - Thomas S. Orwat Jr.)
Akron, NY - This past Friday was the last concert for Braun's "summer" concert series (they will continue to have concerts throughout the fall inside their heated pavilion), as closing things out was the triple bill, featuring Skid Row, Saliva and LA Guns. While many fans could see why the pairing of Skid Row and LA Guns made sense, considering both bands are classic throw-backs from the 80's with impressive catalogs of music, a lot of people questioned why Saliva was part of the bill. Although all of the groups feature several replacement members and have all gone through many personnel changes throughout their careers (LA Guns wins this contest with a list of approximately 35 people who have come and gone from the band), Saliva is viewed by many as a waning, one-hit wonder, and minus original lead vocalist, Josey Scott, they had the most to prove on this night to the reported 1200 fans who were in attendance.
Around quarter after seven, the members of LA Guns took the stage to zero fanfare from the crowd, as they slowly milled around the stage, pulling chords and setting up their gear for their set. Apparently, this tour did not allocate any funds for a road crew, as they were basically doing it all themselves. Once they were set up, they left the stage and came back shortly thereafter, lacking the same enthusiasm they had when they were setting up their gear. It didn't seem like any of the band members were into it, with the exception of their noobie guitarist, Michael Grant, who is still enjoying his first 'rodeo' with the band, and really put a lot of energy into his very physical performance. Although a competent player and an excellent performer, Grant lacked the personality of his predecessor, Stacey Blades. While Blades was criticized by some for being a carbon copy of original LAG axeman, Tracii Guns, Blades really stepped up his game throughout his seven year tenure in the band, and was pivotal in making the last 2 LA Guns CDs ("Tales from the Strip" and "Hollywood Forever") some of their best work in the recorded history of the band.
Although clearly phoning in their performance, Phil Lewis and co. seemed to be having a good time, except for when Phil complained about feedback he thought the sound guy was responsible for, when the whole time (unknown to Lewis), the midrange squeal was coming from Michael Grant's Marshall amplifier. Feedback aside, the band really seemed to kicking into second gear by their fourth song, which was a cover of Sabbath's, "Fairies Wear Boots." Oddly enough, after the next song ("Electric Gypsy"), LA Guns abruptly ended their set after playing less than half an hour. Initially, I spotted bassist, Scott Griffin hiding behind his bass rig in anticipation of being called back for an encore, but once they finished "Electric Gypsy," the house music came on and Griffin shrugged his shoulders and walked off stage, leaving much speculation regarding such a short set for the Guns.
Much to the surprise of the early crowd (especially to those who purposely arrived late to avoid seeing them), instead of being the show opener, Saliva was second on the bill. Given their status, while it didn't make much sense on paper, the transition from LA Guns to Saliva to Skid Row seemed more natural than if Saliva played first. While they still seem to carry the "nu-metal" tag, Saliva's vibe was much more in tune with Skid Row and the band really brought it live. Led by vocalist, Bobby Amaru, the band ripped through their six song set, which included a medley of 'hard rock' covers which they capped off with a cover of AC/DC's "TNT." Even though Saliva also played a short set, they included the title track from their brand new release, "In It To Win It." Although Saliva's set really got the crowd going, vocalist Amaru seemed to struggle to connect with the audience. His juvenile comments about partying and getting 'wasted' didn't seem to get the reaction from the crowd he was anticipating, even on his second and third attempts. Perhaps he wasn't used to playing for the somewhat older demographic who show up for Skid Row and LA Guns performances.
Closing the show was the Johnny Solinger led Skid Row. Making their third Buffalo, NY area stop since 2000, the fans didn't seem to be shocked by the absence of former original singer, Sebastian Bach. Opening the show with "Slave To the Grind," Solinger unceremoniously greeted the crowd by "tossing his cookies," and further commented that it was good to "get that out of the way." The mix early on was really rough, as there was next to no bass guitar coming out of the main PA speakers. This was in part to bassist, Rachel Bolan, being a volume freak onstage and when his bass was included into the full mix, it completely saturated the sound. Although the sound could have better, the band delivered a tight performance, which was well received by the crowd. Even The band's newer material from 2013's "United World Rebellion" EP and 2003's full length release "Thickskin" got the approval from their rabid following.
While musically they are solid, it's really hard to view Skid Row as "the real McCoy" without Sebastian Bach. It's not that Solinger is a bad singer or that he can't sing the songs (and I do like the stuff he's recorded since being in Skid Row), it's just that Sebastian Bach is really one of those 'one in a million' talents that cannot be replaced by a pseudo look a like. Seeing them do the Bach material is like watching the greatest Skid Row tribute band, while knowing the whole time that it's not really Skid Row.
Although the Braun's crowd seemed happy with this lineup, I don't feel the general public will ever fully embrace a Bach-less Skid Row. While it's clear that the potential for greatness is still there if they ever reunite with Bach, unfortunately it seems as though the remaining members of Skid Row are content with limping along with Solinger.
Special thanks to Ross Catalino and Deborah Brosseau.