Live Review : Skid Row + Toseland Bad Touch @ Hangar 34, Liverpool on March 16th 2018.

Bad Touch, the Norwich born rockers clad in paisley shirts and leather waistcoats, swagger comfortably between that very British brand of classic rock and country blues.  They have previously toured with the likes of The Quireboys and Tyketto.  Bad Touch are a rockier outfit than either of these bands and it is no surprise to learn that they have undertaken their own tours on the back of their 2015 release Half Way Home. Bad Touch are tight, at ease on stage and have a larger than life lead singer who clearly loves playing live.  Bad Touch kicked off the set with the song 'Take Me Away' a riffy upbeat rocker.  Much of the set was taken from the bands 2016 album Truth Be Told.

They ended the set with a powerhouse duo of 'Outlaw' and '99%', the latter being a Black Crowsesque pop rock stomper with just the slightest peppering of AC/DC. With a good mix of country blues power ballads and high tempo rock the crowd were well warmed up and ready for Toseland.  You can catch Bad Touch through the remainder of March and all of June in the south of the UK.

In the modern era of X Factor led pop charts and social media replacing the gruelling learning curve that saw bands tour for years before getting recognition, for most to succeed there has to be story aligned with the talent.  Cue the sad music, the voices become serious, people glance to each other acknowledging the terrible story the talent relays about some trifling emotional trauma.  Then the tape plays and another photofit pop star is churned out.  Back in the day it used to be that you poured the emotion into the songs not into the prologue.  So it is refreshing to see the story behind Toseland is one of hard work, achievement but above all else an absolute love of rock and metal.  James Toseland, the two times world superbike champion, hung up the kneepads to concentrate on his first love.  On first impression I felt that quick tingle you get when you get a really good rock band who can offer something just a bit different.  Toselands have an odd mix of pumping bass driven almost robotic rock, James vocals, reminiscent of Miles Kennedy, scream melody.  Lending a slight swing to the pogoing throb of the rhythm section.   Kicking the set of with the immensely hooky Puppet on a chain Toseland started where Bad Touch left the crowd.  James Toseland himself looks slightly out of place, his boyish good looks and burtons menswear outfit could see him stroll into a boyband.  Then he starts singing, the great range and power place him firmly in a hard rock band.  'Living a lie' a clapalong, rock song heavy in melody and rhythm keeps the crowd warmed and for those new to Toseland nods and approving expressions are passed around the throng. 

The dynamic of the set changed and showcased Toseland's keyboard skills for the power ballad 'Fingers Burned', a song about pushing the envelope and always taking chances. Toseland made a bold move to go from an arena where he was so clearly talented and into such a competitive and cruel industry.  After two albums though, it’s clear he has the talent and song writing credentials to truly succeed.

His former profession may open some doors but ultimately you need the talent to stay in the room and stay Toseland will. They where chosen to write the theme for the GB special Olympics team. They ended the set with the Zeppelin riffed 'Hearts and Bones', a heavy rock, Moshpit Banger .

In 2010 I had the rare privilege to watch Henry Rollins doing one of his spoken word gigs at the Lowry in Manchester.  During the two and a bit hour set Henry lamented that we (the thirty somethings) might be the last generation for a while to really rock.  The definition of which is still somewhat dubious.  Rebel against the system, get drunk at inappropriate times, take too many drugs and generally be the archetypal teenager more interested in shagging than studying.  None of these really sum up the attitude though, being a rock fan and  musician is about an attitude, part music snob, part anger at the world.  The sad thing is, Rollins may have been right.   The angst that once was the preserve of metal kids, moved to rap and the urban streets of America.  A rock fan now is just as likely to have half a collection of rap and grime.   It’s maybe a good thing, the only thing is there is not the same cathartic release from the raw energy of alpha rock band, with seething riffs and biting lyrics.

By the time Skid Row came to the stage we where ready, waiting, unsure of a band without it’s talismanic singer and co-founder Sebastian Bach.  His absence was enough to put some people from attending at all.  There was no introduction, just straight into the opening salvo that is 'Slave To The Grind', an ode to what it is to be a rocker, untethered to a system that rejects creativity and non-conformity. The five or six middle aged men in front of me tried to start a mosh pit, the bouncer came and told them off like the school teacher reprimanding children. The men, probably office workers, engineers where far too quick to acquiesce,  at least they tried.

The band however stormed on, a back to back rattle out of two juxtaposed albums. 'Slave To The Grind', was a surprise when released, so much heavier and more aggressive, the ballads where intelligent and had a depth that wasn’t apparent in the first self titled album, Skid Row, a pop rock masterpiece of glitter bound heels and snake hipped lotharios.  So many years on though, 'Slave To The Grind' followed by 'Sweet Little Sister' felt right.  An ode to a band with such dynamism.
The new singer, former Dragonforce frontman, ZP Theart, has the range, and let’s be honest, that was on everyone’s mind.  Can he cut it? Sebastian Bach, had that voice, incredible range and power.  ZP belted out the first two songs like they where his own, the sense of relief was palpable.  The whole crowd together knew they could enjoy the rest of the show, the songs, they are in safe hands.  He showered the crowd with water and Barnstormed through a plethora of classics, 'Piece of Me', 'Big Guns', 'Living On a Chain Gang'.  Of course when the c# minor arpeggio of '18 and Life' rings out, the loudest roar of the night was heard.  The whole song was sang by the crowd, it was the first time in the night I stopped thinking and disappeared somewhere else, it was joy.  ZP was given a brief rest as Rachel Bolan sang Psycho Therapy, a song from an ep of covers called "B-side Ourselves".  Alas no Little Wing.  ZP came back out and to my surprise they played In a 'Darkened Room', one of the darkest songs from the second album, who’s themes revolve around religion and child abuse, the music to which is some of the best from that period of rock.

The latter part of the set saw Messrs Hill and Sabo square off for a guitar duel smack bang in the middle of 'Monkey Business'.  The night was rounded off with the singalong anthems of "I remember You" and the forever rebellious "Youth Gone wild".   This is the third band from the late eighties/early nineties I’ve seen this last 12 months and the Skids where by far the best, the amount of songs they didn’t play was what surprised me, no 'Get the Fuck Out', 'Quicksand Jesus', 'Wasted Time', 'Here I Am' or 'The Threat'.   This above all gives them that edge over other bands who just don’t have the songs that Skid Row have. This was a great gig who’s only failing was that sweet taste of rebellion was too little for this old rocker.                  

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Words by Paul Flett, Photography by Johann Wierzbicki