SEBASTIAN BACH EXPLODES IN TORONTO
There is nothing like capping a great year of concerts with one of the best shows of the year. When it was announced that Sebastian Bach would essentially be playing a “hometown” show at The Phoenix Concert Theatre a few days prior to Christmas — and with local sleaze rock sensations Diemonds as the official guest opener — there was no way I was going to miss this show.
Given the strong line-up from first band to last, I elected to uncharacteristically get to the venue before the first note from any band was played. It had been almost three years since I had been back at the Phoenix — and ironically, the last time I was there I got to see and hear Diemonds for the first time when they were one of the opening bands for Slash and company. Since then, Diemonds has been the band that I have seen play live the most often over the last three years. The sleaze rockers were even the first band that I ever interviewed for Sleaze Roxx back in September 2012 (click here to read that interview). How fitting that Diemonds would be playing at the Phoenix once again — it certainly was no surprise to find out that Bach had handpicked them to open the show.
Even though I got to the venue almost half an hour prior to the first band hitting the stage, there were already four or five rows of people ahead of me. While this was not a great surprise, for a lot of other shows in Toronto, it is fairly easy to get to within one row of the stage just prior to the headliner hitting the stage. This was the first indication that there was electricity in the air and the night would be a special one. I met up, for the first time, with Sleaze Roxx enthusiast Eduardo who recently moved from the mega metropolitan of Mexico City to what he must consider to be a small city (Toronto) and it was certainly a lot of fun learning about the music scene in Mexico. By the time that opening band Revelation 17 hit the stage, I had also been joined by occasional Sleaze Roxx writer Chris (who had attended the Slash concert with me at the Phoenix almost three years ago) and rival website writer The Meister.
I had never heard Revelation 17 before but knew that lead singer Jacqueline Lovely had been around the scene for quite some time. Her band hailed from Barrie, which is about one hour north of Toronto. After former M.E.A.T. magazine editor and MC Drew Masters introduced the band — albeit with a slight blunder, calling opening act Second Pass “Second Coming” — Revelation 17 started playing their brand of straight-up rock and roll. The band’s overall look was slightly odd in that the guitarist appeared to have one massive wig and although he was playing an Eddie Van Halen like decorated guitar, no one would be mistaking him for the Van Halen maestro. In addition, there was one female band member (I believe Roxy Rolla) who hardly contributed anything except dancing around a little bit and sometimes offering background vocals and playing the tambourine. The highlights of their set for me were their cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Heaven And Hell” and the original song (for which I do not know the name) that followed. One rather cheesy portion of the band’s set occurred during the last song when Lovely sported a Jesus crucifix crown and had chains from her wrists to the drum kit while singing at least part of the song. Revelation 17‘s original songs were alright on a first listen and overall they put on a good performance and definitely had some fans out in the audience.
Next up was Second Pass, probably the band that has played more than anyone else in the Toronto area over the past year — just about every Toronto bill seemed to have them on it. That being said, this was only my second time seeing the band. While I had been very impressed with Second Pass when I witnessed them opening for the legendary L.A. Guns (click here to read that review), this time around I found myself appreciating their Led Zeppelin-ish music but at the same time not really being into it since their style of music isn’t what I usually listen to. Second Pass played a rather quick seven song set with my favorites being the opener “My Life” and show closer “Biting My Tongue”, for which they have shot a cool video for. Although Second Pass doesn’t play the style of music that I prefer, there is no denying that the band members have a lot of talent and have made great strides in popularity in the last year or so.
Having seen Diemonds live more often than anyone else over the last three years, this was only my second time seeing the sleaze rockers this year as the band has mostly been in hibernation recording the follow-up to their absolutely stellar ‘The Bad Pack’ record — which was my pick for record of the year for 2012. Although the band’s new record is only slated to be released on April 20, 2015, I have long felt that I know some of the upcoming songs quite well since Diemonds have been playing some of them live since at least back in March 2013. MC Drew Masters justifiably introduced Diemonds as the best hard rock group in Toronto and the band launched into “Meet Your Maker”, my favorite new track that I was familiar with.
Just like when I first saw Diemonds play on the Phoenix stage three years ago, electricity was in the air as the band put on a spirited and strong performance. Lead vocalist Priya Panda was looking as sexy as ever, and for the most part I could hear her vocals fairly well over the band’s music — which I have found to sometimes drown out her voice in past performances. Diemonds essentially treated the crowd to a sneak peek of their new upcoming record as the band played eight unreleased tracks and only two songs from their ‘The Bad Pack’ record — “Get The Fuck Outta Here” and “Lil’ Miss”. There was one new song in particular that I really liked, but I could not tell you the name of it. One thing that I enjoyed on this night was that Panda seemed to address the crowd more than usual which I think can only help the band connect with their audience even more and take their live show to the next level. I think it is safe to say that Diemonds put on one ass-kicking performance and totally justified Sebastian Bach handpicking them to open before him.
The schedule for the show indicated that Sebastian Bach would be hitting the stage at 10:15 pm, but as is customary (it seems in Toronto) that schedule was not adhered to. It could have been, since Bach‘s stage setup seemed pretty much ready to go by the scheduled time, but the audience had to wait until past 11:00 pm for Bach and his bandmates to hit the stage. At least the audience was treated to some classic KISS tunes, with just about the entire ‘Rock And Roll Over’ and ‘Love Gun’ records played through the venue’s PA system during this “intermission”. As soon as Bach hit the stage, what struck me once again is how much presence that the former Skid Row singer has while performing. Love him or hate him, Bach truly is one of the great frontmen of heavy metal. The man must have metal in his blood and it seemed that all of the audience’s eyes were glued to his every move while he was on stage.
Bach and company kicked off with their perennial show opener “Slave To The Grind” and you could feel the energy in the air. Although his solo tunes such as “Hell Inside My Head” and “Temptation” sounded good live, there was no question what the crowd wanted to hear… vintage Skid Row tracks — and the singer was quick to oblige by playing three songs in a row at one point from Skid Row‘s self-titled debut record: “Big Guns”, “Piece Of Me” and “18 And Life”. Having grown up in the town of Peterborough, about one and a half hours north east of Toronto, Bach had what seemed to be a large contingent of friends and family in the general admission audience including his 70 year old mother. As to be expected with any great frontman, Bach was quite entertaining and funny when addressing the audience — even dedicating (I believe) “Big Guns” to the “hardest rocking chick” in the audience — his mother! He also recalled how his first show in Toronto was in November 1983 when he was only 14 years old at a bar called Larry’s Hideaway. He then made fun of his mother in a good way, joking how she must feel like a “bad parent” for having her son playing a gig at such a young age. Prior to “18 And Life” the frontman pointed out that he was 18 years old when he was living in Toronto, so although the song was written by an American band their lead vocalist was a Canadian boy. There was apparently one fan who really wanted Bach to sign some t-shirts during the show and the frontman playfully responded that, “I am sort of busy right now”. These are the little things that connect the live performer to his/her audience and Bach is one of the greats in that department.
The love expressed by Bach towards his mother seemed most evident when he was singing “Silent Night” in the middle of “Monkey Business” and he suddenly and unexpectedly stopped the show. I did not see exactly what happened, but apparently someone might have pushed or been pushed into Bach‘s 70 year old mother who was standing near the right front portion of the stage. Bach let out a tongue lashing tirade against some fan in the audience, screaming out of the blue, “Hey, do you want to stop the show? That is my fucking mother right there you jack-off. I’ll fucking beat your fucking face in. Don’t fuck around with my fucking mother if you want to fucking get out of here alive…” (view the videos below for the entire tirade). Conventional wisdom suggests that having a 70 year old woman standing in a passionate general admission audience might lead to that woman getting “bumped” at some point during the show so it felt like Bach‘s reaction was over the top on this one. That being said, you can appreciate how he would have wanted his mother to witness the show from a close vantage point. Perhaps it would have been better if she had enjoyed the show from the side of the stage rather than in the general admission area. After briefly threatening to leave the stage if there were any more idiots out there, Bach got back on track and even sang an awesome version of the Rush classic “Tom Sawyer”.
One highlight for me was when Sebastian Bach played “Breakin’ Down” from Skid Row‘s ‘Subhuman Race’, which he introduced as an underrated album. Funny enough, I had not heard any song from that release in more than eighteen years but I vividly remembering paying what seemed like an astronomical price for the cassette while backpacking in Europe back in 1995. I never remembered really liking that record much, but I must have loved it at the time because a fellow Canadian turned Aussie backpacker (Travis), that I only met for three days during my four month trek, recently sent me a Facebook message stating how much I loved it when he met me (note to self — I must revisit ‘Subhuman Race’).
Bach advised the crowd that this was the final date of his “Tour Of Hell” which apparently covered 140 cities. Even though he also pointed out that this was the band’s thirteenth show in thirteen nights, he seemed to want to play extra long for his “hometown” crowd. One funny story shared by Bach was about his high school buddy Rick and how they had gone to some after hours party where about a hundred Hells Angels bikers were in attendance. Apparently Bach‘s buddy hopped on one of the Hells Angels’ motorcycles, which ended up dropping to the ground. Rick was then unceremoniously punched out and Bach ended up dragging him out of there — good times. Bach and company ended the show with the classic “Youth Gone Wild” and a surprise cover of Aerosmith‘s “Movin’ Out”.
Highlights for me included Bach‘s many interactions with the audience, his piercing screams (which were often continued with some sort of backing vocal track), his command of the audience, and the songs “18 And Life” and “Monkey Business” — with “Tom Sawyer” in the middle. I think it is safe to say that Bach and his band blew the roof down at the Phoenix with their performance and the singer showed everyone how you command an audience from start to finish. It might be more than thirty years since Sebastian Bach has been playing live music, but on this night he definitely proved that he still has the “it” factor.
Sebastian Bach’s setlist:
01. Slave To The Grind
02. Hell Inside My Head
04. The Threat
05. Big Guns
06. Piece Of Me
07. 18 And Life
09. American Metalhead
10. In A Darkened Room
11. Monkey Business w/ Silent Night (Franz Xaver Gruber cover) and Tom Sawyer (Rush cover)
12. Breakin’ Down
13. Taking Back Tomorrow
14. I Remember You
15. All My Friends Are Dead
16. Youth Gone Wild
17. Movin’ Out (Aerosmith cover)