Tag Archive: Ugly Kid Joe

Skid Row + Ugly Kid Joe + Dead City Ruins @ Wolverhampton Wulfrun, 2 November 2013

We’re here to rock tonight in Wolves with two nineties rock bands back out on the road. Really a double headliner, we have Californian surfer dudes Ugly Kid Joe up first in ‘support’ of screaming stalwarts of trad metal rock Skid Row, as part of a 29 date over 36 day intensive tour of the UK and Europe.

Tonight’s gig at the Wulfrun is very nearly sold out. Unfortunately we’re not here in time to catch the early support on at 7pm; Australians Dead City Ruins we hear, have gone down well. Whit Crane from Ugly Kid Joe alluded to the fact they are touring in a little black van, to feed them and to the girls in the audience to give ‘em a place to sleep. 2013 has brought them their long awaited second self titled album and this tour. They are “… a working class hard rock band fuelled by what life throws at them from good times, bad times, disappointments, achievements and life in the cruel f***in city!” Find out more about them on their Facebook page.

So at 8pm, Ugly Kid Joe take to the stage. The band returned to the scene last year after totally disappearing for 15 years. In the day, these Californian rockers had two top ten singles and in the day were all over MTV. Reappearing last year in the UK as support for Alice Cooper’s Hallowe’en tour, they were band that stood out for just how bleedin’ good and how much fun they were. And they’ve not stopped; they’ve continued to tour and released ‘Stairway to Hell’, a 6 song EP. We should realise “… one VERY important thing about UKJ; they mean every goddam note, every goddam riff and every goddam moment they deliver.”

UKJUKJ are the charismatic Whit Crane (vocals), Klaus Eichstadt (guitar), Dave Fortman (guitar), Cordell Crockett (bass) and Shannon Larkin (drums). And as they take to the small stage, Crane appears to huge applause and bows to the crowd and they’re into first track ‘V.I.P.’ UKJ are hugely energetic; every centimeter on the stage is used and Crane takes the first of several opportunities to get up close and personal with the crowd, by dropping down into the pit. Crane conducts the audience with the minimum of effort; for ‘Neighbor’ he’s effectively ‘pulling the crowd’ to get them to sing “…gonna be my neighbor…” and the bass player is high up on one of the amps. UKJ are totally inclusive too, even inviting the photographers to climb up on stage and take pictures from there. The band rock out, encouraging every audience member to jump; “let’s see if we can get this floor moving…”

“So this is the Black Country…. the home of Zeppelin and Black Sabbath… the home of all things metal… we’re from California… without these guys we wouldn’t be here….” For Panhandlin’ Prince we’re told to put our hands in the air “…. and do what I do…” As Crane starts to clap, so do we. Crane can only see the first couple of rows and insists that the house lights are on so the band can see everyone. “… Hey everyone, how are you? Nice to see you all….” For ‘So Damn Cool’ the band rock on, Crane paces the stage like a caged tiger, continually engaging with the crowd, getting us to cheer, to clap, to way our arms from side to side. For ‘Cats in the Cradle,’ the houselights are still up, he implores everyone to sing with him on this song, and once again we do – it’s the chorus before Crane joins us.

For ‘Tomorrows World’ the houselights are off because “… this song is more sinister….” and the beating rhythm of the song rolls on. ‘Goddamn Evil’ is the last song in this part the set… Crane: “I have to be honest with you, pretend we have left the set, and start chanting, like we have never heard before….” this is an imaginary encore, except the band stand motionless like statues on the purple lit darkened stage. Then restarting to a question; would you like to hear one song or two. “Two…” is the overriding response from the crowd. “Your wish is my command….” and the chords strike up and we’re into the manic ‘Everything About You.’ “Go f****in’ crazy!!!!” as we, the crowd, shout the last line of the track…”Hate everything… about you…” “Nice…” says Crane, before the band leap into a rip-stonking rendition of Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ – giving it the full credit the track deserves.

UKJ’s set is over. Humble, yet awesome, UKJ deliver and then some. They’ve clearly had a blast and clearly wanted us all to have a blast – which we did. So, next up Skid Row – will they be able to delivery to the same level as UKJ?

Skid Row hail from New Jersey. Rachel Bolan and Dave’ Snake’ Sabo formed said band recruiting Scotti Hill. Sabo and some bloke called John Bon Jovi were mates and they had a deal to help each other if they made it in the music business, Bon Jovi’s manager signed the band and a young Sebastian Bach joined as vocalist.  By the end of ‘96 they’d opened for Jovi, sold 20 million albums, toured the world, took a hiatus and fired lead singer Sebastian Bach.

Skid RowOriginal members Sabo (guitar) and Bolan (bass) along with Hill (guitar) are the core of the band with ‘new’ singer Johnny Solinger (who joined way back in 2000) and Rob Hammersmith (drums) who joined in 2010. In 2013 Skid Row released the first of a series of EPs ‘United World Rebellion: Chapter One’. The audience seems a tad thinner; clearly a few were here to see UKJ only. Onto Intro track ‘Let’s Go’ by The Ramones, followed by an air raid siren, here comes Skid Row. Sabo and Hill still have waist length locks, Bolan having taken his looks from Scott Weiland (circa Velvet Revolver era) and they start off with ‘Big Guns.’ ‘New’ singer Solinger has good vocals, albeit slightly lower than Bach’s, although he does have the ability to squeal. The band are clearly tight and clearly enjoying being out touring and playing live – there’s a big cheer from the crowd. “Look at all you crazy f***ers here man…. we’ve been waiting a long time to see you… the wolves of Wolverhampton…” Solinger certainly has that American rock band gift of the understated gob.

Skid Row songs, unlike UKJ, haven’t stood the test of time in the same way; they are indeed, as Solinger points out ‘old school.’ Hit ‘18 and Life’ takes place with Solinger mostly not on stage and he doesn’t have the extreme vocal range to deliver as the original. However, the crowd aren’t fussed, they all sing, a nostalgic sing-along to a song from their youth and the band get a good response.

Solinger: “Its been 24 years since the first Skid Row album came out….” he speaks like he was there at the outset as they rock and rumble through ‘Thick is the Skin’ and ‘Kings of Demolition.’ Then Bolan speaks: “You have never let us down, thank you for your unconditional support and I mean that…” as him and the rest of the guys go into The Ramones ‘Psycho Therapy’, Bolan on vocals – he’s clearly the punk of the band.

Solingers back and taking; “There was no cellphones to speak of when Skid Row started out…we had to catch up with the kids, use your phone to send us your pictures on Facebook – Tweet us your neighbour, a selfie or me….” And we’re into Skid Row’s ballad – ‘I Remember You.” The audience all sing along but Solinger’s vocals don’t again quite hit the mark.

So tonight may have been two rock bands from the nineties, that each audience member can look back with a nostalgic viewpoint on a particular time that meant something in the day. And fair play to both bands coming out and giving it and more than some on such an intensive tour. But there is a difference between UKJ and Skid Row. UKJ give it all, to each and everyone in the audience. They have the ability to connect in whichever city they play, to make people smile, to just have one hell of a party. And they also have that other thing; like Faith No More who disappeared for over a decade before re-appearing, the time gap they were away has just disappeared and they remain current and relevant. Skid Row were indeed big, in their day. The band remains hugely talented; the guitars and rhythm tight and they’re clearly enjoying it. But, the tracks haven’t really stood the test of time – a middle aged band singing ’18 and Life’ and ‘Youth Gone Wild’ was always gonna be hard – they have become (scarily) old school. And while Solinger has great vocal range, he can’t reach the dizzying vocal heights of Sebastian Bach (although I doubt that even Bach could these days).

UKJ will be back and are well worth seeing for any rock fan that loves the fun energetic metal funk side with rip-roaring vocals. Skid Row are more akin to those of that time period – if you like 90s big hair rock than take a punt – but note that Solinger’s delivery is not Bach’s. Accept that, run with the nostalgia of the old, embrace the new and you will enjoy.

*****************************

Ugly Kid Joe Setlist
V.I.P.
Dialogue
Neighbour
Jesus Rode a Harley
C.U.S.T.
Panhandlin’ Prince
So Damn Cool
No One Survives
Devil’s Paradise
Cat’s in the Cradle
I’m Alright
Tomorrow’s World
Milkman’s Son
Goddamn Devil
Everything About You
Ace of Spades (Motorhead cover)
Skid Row Setlist
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 (Ramones cover)
I Remember You
Monkey Business

Encore:
Slave to the Grind
Youth Gone Wild

*****************************

Listening:
Ugly Kid Joe:
America’s Least Wanted [1992]
Menace to Sobriety [1995]
Skid Row
Skid Row [1989]
Slave to the Grind [1991]

*****************************

Review for Gig Junkies. Photos: Ken Harrison

 

Alice Cooper + Ugly Kid Joe + Duff McKagan’s Loaded @Wolverhampton Civic Hall 25th October 2012

Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Bianca Barrett.

It’s All Hallows Eve (well nearly), the festival of the dead, and the rock god of shock horror macabre theatrics, Alice Cooper is in Wolves with his annual Hallowe’en Night of Fear tour. Promo says to dress up – so the audience should feature a few outrageous costumes, as there will be cash prizes for the winners!

And in support, kinda bizarrely, we have Duff McKagan’s Loaded and returning 80s Californian rock n’ roll surfers Ugly Kid Joe. Tonight doors at Wolves Civic are opened half and hour earlier to fit in all three acts with decently long sets.

I arrive as Duff McKagan’s Loaded are giving it some, rock wise, so to speak. Loaded are former Gunner and Velvet Revolver axe merchant McKagan, Mike Squires on lead guitar, Jeff Rouse on bass, Isaac Carpenter on drumming duties. Performing energetic punk rock, to a surprisingly full Civic, even though it’s just before 7.30pm. “I thought this was Wolverhampton not fuckin’ Birmingham…” as McKagan encourages a response from the crowd. Final song of the set the GnR classic: ‘It’s So Easy’. It’s got far more bass than the original (as you would expect from the former GnR bassist), it suits Loaded to play this – all full of attitude. “We are from Seattle, we will be back…we are Loaded.” A suitably good response, from a suitably good performance – they’re off after a 40 minute set.

Next up Ugly Kid Joe. They split in ’97 only to re-emerge in 2011. With new EP ‘Stairway to Hell’ released June 2012, they played a few festivals across Europe this year including Download. UKJ are Whitfield Crane on vocals, Klaus Eichstadt and Dave Fortman on guitar, Cordell Crockett on bass and drummer Shannon Larkin.

Now I may have seen then in their previous life – its vague I can’t quite remember. And I have to admit, I’m not quite sure what to expect. As the lights go down- the crowd scream – I’m guessing that’s for the vaguely good looking Crane. He’s dressed as I guess you would expect, in baggy three quarter surfer shorts, t-shirt, knee high socks and baseball cap on back to front.  He does the rock horns, the crowd cheer and give the horns back! He’s already winding them up –  live UKJ are far more rocky and slightly more screamy than their commercial hits and first song is reminiscent of the Crue’s ‘Dr Feelgood.’   Next up, I know the words to this, ‘Neighbourhood’ and I realise that somewhere on my shelves at home, I brought this CD!

Crane’s voice is still on song, ripping and shredding and screaming. He gets the crowd to “woohooo”, as he bows. “It’s real good to be here … how you all feeling? New song at end of set – jump when you see me jump.” After banter, singing away, Crane’s climbing up to the balcony, which is pretty high here at the Civic. He takes photo with someone’s phone – “Put your hands in the air and scream” He’s walking round the balcony (another reviewer here tonight gets to touch him, apparently he’s very sweaty but very muscular!) He walks right round the edge of the balcony; people stand to let him by and he sits on balcony edge of the opposite side to compete the song.

I have to say, I’m suitably surprised, he’s great with the crowd – he has everyone in the palm of his hand – like a maestro conducting an orchestra. “Everybody scream for me…..”  “aaaahhhh….” come the response. “How you doing motherf*****ers? Crane jumps and the audience jump!

Crane: “You guys are awesome…. twenty years… grateful to be standing here…fifteen years since we played here – this one is for everyone here…” And everyone sings along, come on readers you know the words “Cats in the Cradle….” Hands wave from side to side – this is a great feel-good factor gig! Puts a big grin on your face on a cold autumnal evening.

He’s still going – speaks to audience member Peter, “Say hi to Pete” – “Hi Pete” responds the audience. “Walk up towards me five steps – everyone…that’s all of you…I want to see you…. Everybody on the floor jump!” And they do, it’s UKJ’s new song!

Then it’s the final sing of their set – another one to sing along to: “Everything about you.” The last line is spoken on the song, the crowd: “Everything about…..” Crane stops us, and counts us in to the last word – hands in the air – “You!” Wowsers – I have to say, tonight, Ugly Kid Joe, your totally rocked Wolves Civic.

So to a break – and to catch our breath in preparation for Alice’s arrival.

The crowd is quite a mixture – the rockers, a lot of them enjoyed Duff. Then we have peeps of a slightly older age, clearly into Alice in his hey-day. And there is a few younger ones – come to check out the shock horror that is Cooper, and some little people. I’ve always been amazed at the numbers of small kids that frequent Alice Cooper gigs, given that they are, in general, pretty bloodthirsty.

And then we have the ones who have gone to town in fancy dress – from faked up Goth, to blood splattered faces. Oh and a devil. Horns included. And a witch. And a white zombie blood soaked man. Man with creepy baby on shoulder (not a real one I hasten to add).

As we wait for Alice we have the competition for fancy ghoulish dress – several individuals on stage for which the audience vote for by the loudest cheer. The Mad Jester just about defeats the Shining Twins into second place.

And the lights drop; the stage is a backdrop with a canopy where two red eyes beam down onto the crowd below. To ‘The Underture’ we have a curtain of fireworks right across the stage (I bet the Civics’ health & safety team took a sharp intake of breath) and through the veil of fireworks Alice appears, in full garb, red and black-stripped jacket and full war paint.

The set and the band are typically over the top. Alice’s band doesn’t just feature one, or two, but a trio of guitarists – Orianthi, Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henricksen plus bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel, with a kit Tommy Lee would be proud of. (Although they are visually very reminiscent of 80s rock glam rockers Cinderella). Tonight’s set will feature the old and classic, plus songs from his latest album ‘Welcome 2 My Nightmare’ – and a few cover versions.

‘Hello Hurray!’ Alice is pacing the stage, baton in hand, twirling it round and around. Tonight he is the ringmeister. Into ‘House of Fire’ – Alice is master of this genre, he slaps his baton on his legs and he is the one in command. He poses, in classic Alice pose – the crowd cheer.  Jacket off – now he’s ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy.’

And if you were thinking of a title of a song, in true Alice style – next up we have ‘I’ll Bite Your Face Off.’ As you do. Okay we’ve had fireworks, you and your band are truly professional, tight, amazing, your voice is still menacing – where’s the blood? Now I don’t usually ask such a question at a gig, it is indeed, something in general I do not want to see. But this is Alice. I’ve seen you before, ripping heads of teddy bears and guts spewing everywhere; decapitations, guillotines, a 101 ways to kill yourself on stage…..

‘Billion Dollar Babies’ – the trio of guitarists open this track up phenomenally well. Alice is back, studded jacket on. He’s got a sword, stabbed onto it are dollar notes, as he sings he struts the stage, shaking the notes off over the audience. Maybe he’ll stab a guitarist? Decapitate one? Er. No. Clearly tonight’s set is ‘straight’ Alice, less theatrics, not quite as gruesome. In saying that, Vincent Furnier himself, is totally ensconced in being Alice – and it’s a great theatrical performance.

“Hey….Hey…Hey… Hey…” ‘Hey Stoopid’ goes down well. ‘Dirty Diamonds’ he’s chucking diamond necklaces into the audience, and we have a bloody….. erm, drum solo, then the bassist, then the guitarists – clearly a musical interlude for Alice to catch his breath.

Light’s flicker, thunder comes through the speakers, a single spotlight is on Alice. ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’ – he makes Freddie Kruger look soft and cuddly. He scowls his way through the track, two minions appear and tie him into a straight jacket, from which he dutifully escapes by the end of the song. ‘The Man Behind The Mask’: a fake paparazzi cameraman gets escorted off the stage. By Frankenstein

Alice is indeed class. He’s been doing this so long, he knows how to deliver it to exact perfection. And blows all those wannabes off stage. If you’ve not seen him, he’s well worth it, not doubt next Hallowe’en he will rise and appear to scare us once more. I had to leave before the end of the gig (it wasn’t local gig for me, train beckoned), so there may have been more theatrics at the end. It’s Alice and my expectation was for blood, guts and gore, especially at Halowe’en…

But all in all, what a cracking night! Great venue (if you’ve never visited Wolves Civic for a gig before, it is indeed, one of the best live venues in the Midlands). And for 36 nicker, this Halowe’en, Duff got us Loaded, Ugly Kid Joe were a revelation, and as for Alice, you didn’t have to ask him what was the matter. He’d have ‘bitten your face off.’