SKID ROW ON THE RIGHT TRACK WITH NEW SINGER ERIK GRÖNWALL
Date: June 16, 2022
Event: Sound of Music Festival
Venue: Spencer Smith Park
Stage: Access Storage Stage – West End
Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
There are a handful of frontmen in rock that I put in the “great” quality in terms of being entertaining, captivating an audience and having the charisma needed to keep a crowd interested in what they are doing. You’ll note that I didn’t mention anything about singing as that is just an extra bonus. This very exclusive club (in my mind) consists of Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider, Van Halen lead vocalist David Lee Roth aka Diamond Dave, Steel Panther singer Michael Starr (who borrowed quite a bit from Diamond Dave and has some assistance from guitarist Satchel), Last Bullet frontman Bryan Fontez (who sadly has moved on from fronting any band) and Skid Row‘s previous maestro Sebastian Bach as well as their new “conductor” Erik Grönwall.
Obviously, my interest in Skid Row skyrocketed when I found that they had snatched up the former H.E.A.T vocalist to be their new frontman to replace ZP Theart (who never really fit in as the Skid Row frontman role in my opinion). I don’t know the exact reason why Skid Row decided to recruit Grönwall but I think it must have to do with the latter’s absolutely killer cover of the track “18 & Life” that was posted on YouTube about 10 months ago. To say that Grönwall nailed his cover of Skid Row‘s hit single is simply an understatement. Grönwall‘s cover is so good it still brings me goose bumps when I listen to it now. How good is Grönwall? The Skid Row members apparently offered him the lead vocalist job without actually meeting him given that he is based in Sweden while they are all presumably in the States. The unthinkable occurred in late March of this year when it was revealed that Grönwall was the new singer for Skid Row and that a new studio album with the very clever title The Gang’s All Here (seemingly a strong hint that Skid Row won’t be reuniting with Bach anytime soon) would be released on October 14, 2022.
Now that Grönwall was in Skid Row, I knew that my chances of seeing him play live had increased ten fold. After all, as far as I knew, H.E.A.T had only performed a handful of times in North America consisting of one or perhaps multiple appearances at MelodicRock Fest in the States and one time on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. One day, I may well attend the Monsters of Rock Cruise but that will have to wait for now. In any case, while posting an article on Sleaze Roxx that included Skid Row‘s upcoming Gang’s All Here Tour dates, I noticed that there was a tour stop in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16th. That was simply perfect since Burlington is really kind of like a big suburb of the city of Toronto. In essence, if you travel west along Lake Ontario, you’ll hit the cities of Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville (town) and finally Burlington. All of these cities (and town) are next to each other so that’s why I view Burlington as simply one of Toronto’s many suburbs.
I also suspected that since Skid Row were playing in Burlington in mid-June, this was part of the city’s outdoor Sound of Music Festival. For whatever reason, I had never checked out the Sound of Music Festival but knew that they have had some bands that I have liked over the last few years. A couple of summers ago, I also had to go to Burlington f0r work purposes and realized that they had a really nice waterfront and therefore, I now knew at that point that the Sound of Music Festival would be pretty cool to attend since prior photos that I had seen for the festival featured that very waterfront. Unfortunately, the Sound of Music Festival‘s line-up wasn’t really my cup of tea this year but I was able to confirm that Skid Row were playing and in fact headlining one of the stages of the four-day festival. To be honest, out of the 51 acts that I counted (and before discovering The Warning‘s music), I would have only paid money to see Skid Row play live. The other bands that piqued my interest were Honeymoon Suite (a little poppy for my taste but I definitely know a lot of their songs), Black Stone Cherry, One Bad Son and The Warning. Interestingly, all off these bands were scheduled for the night that Skid Row were going to be playing.
Given that The Warning were going to be playing the Velvet Underground in Toronto the next night (review to come), I decided just to focus on the stage where Skid Row were performing on. You see, the Sound of Music Festival has multiple outdoor stages going on at the same time. On this year’s Thursday and Friday evenings, two stages were being utilized while on Saturday and Sunday, three stages would be operating at the same time.
Although I knew that I would be missing a part of Honeymoon Suite‘s set given that I was leaving a little late from home (about 7:45 pm), I was looking forward to catching them play live. Given that there was so much music for me to discover from 1984 onwards when I discovered heavy metal music, I wasn’t open to any music that strayed away from the hard rock / heavy metal genre back in the day. I can’t say that I have expanded my musical tastes that much over the years but at least I will listen to and enjoy pop rock from the 80’s and I would lump Honeymoon Suite‘s music in that category. Now, if you’re expecting to read about Honeymoon Suite‘s performance here, I have to warn you that this portion of my review will see me ranting and raving on some unfortunate organizational issues that I encountered at the Sound of Music Festival that caused me to miss most of the band’s set.
Once I found out that Skid Row were playing at the Sound of Music Festival, I quickly went on the festival’s website and purchased a “VIP/Front Row Experience” ticket. At the time, I found the ticket to be on the cheap side ($40 Cdn plus surcharges) but didn’t realize that the general admission area was free of charge. Apparently, most people that attend the Sound of Music Festival attend it free of charge courtesy of — I assume — the City of Burlington and/or various sponsors. That’s fine and dandy but it made accessing the “VIP/Front Row” section quite challenging when there really was no reason to be. The main issue is that most of the security guards that I encountered and that were decked out in bright yellow t-shirts simply had no clue how someone was to get to the “VIP/Front Row” section right next to the stage.
By the time I had parked my car (free of charge in a nearby street) and found the Access Storage Stage (I went with what sounded like Honeymoon Suite from afar), there was a large crowd of people on the lawn with a smaller stage at the top of a hill. I first got to barriers on the east side and asked one of the bright yellow t-shirt cladded security guards how to access the “VIP/Front Row” area while showing him my ticket (which I had printed out at home). The security guard in question advised me that I didn’t need a ticket and that I could simply get in as he provided me with a red wrist band. I then made my way through the crowd towards the stage before reaching a barrier which obviously outlined what was the pretty small “VIP/Front Row” section. At this point, I recognized the song “Stay In The Light” which was being performed by Honeymoon Suite. Given that there was seemingly no way to access that area, no festival staff in sight and with tons of people near the barrier in question, I decided to walk all the way back to where I initially entered.
Honeymoon Suite performing “Burning In Love” live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2022 (video from Jim Symington‘s YouTube page):
I then made my way around the large general admission crowd. I arrived at another area near the centre at the back of the crowd that seemed to be a pathway to the “VIP/Front Row” section since there were barriers separating the general admission area to the left and right. No one was using that pathway but there was another bright yellow t-shirt wearing security guard manning the entrance. Once again, I displayed my printed ticket to the security guard and asked how to get into the “VIP/Front Row” section. Unfortunately, English was not the security guard’s first language but I managed to understand that there was another yellow clad female security guard near some sort of TV station area that could let me in. I then kept walking around the general admission crowd to the west side. The TV station in question seemed to be a radio station truck and although I did see a yellow clad female security guard in the “VIP/Front row” section a little further away, it would be very tough to get to her with the amount of people standing next to each other in the general admission area.
By that point, I could get close to the actual stage but my view was from the side of the stage (with the loading area on the other side of a big fence) so my quest to get into the “VIP/Front Row” section (that I had paid for) would have to continue. Being at the side of the stage, I could see that photographers could access the “VIP/Front Row” from the loading area so I got out of the general admission area once again and was walking around the fencing area when I saw yet another yellow clad security guard inside that area. The guard opened the fencing area a little bit as I started asking him how to access the elusive “VIP/Front Row” section. I was about to show him my printed ticket when some idiot in a golf cart snuck in behind me and started repeatedly accusing me of trying to access the backstage area (which I denied). Unfortunately, the man on the golf cart (there was a female beside him as well) was adamant that I was trying to get backstage and I couldn’t even talk to the security guard by that point. It didn’t seem that this was the right area to access the “VIP/Front Row” area in any case since I was now almost behind the stage so I elected to leave while telling the idiot on the golf cart that the Sound of Music Festival could use some better organization. Clearly, the idiot on the golf cart didn’t like that comment as he replied how the festival was “very well organized.”
With the Honeymoon Suite set seemingly drawing to a close — they were now playing what turned out to be their second last song “Feel It Again” — I walked around the general admission area back to the logical spot where I thought I should be able to access the “VIP/Front Row” section, which was where barriers separated the general admission area all the way to the “VIP/Front Row” area. I encountered another yellow clad security guard who told me that I needed a stamp to get into that area and to go get this stamp at the tents near the back where Honeymoon Suite t-shirts were being sold. That seemed odd but whatever. I started speaking to one young man from Access Storage (one of the sponsors) underneath the tent who was quite friendly and pointed me to the Honeymoon Suite t-shirt area. I noticed a couple that seemingly had the same problem since they were also asking how to access the “VIP/Front Row”. All three of us were eventually told to go where the radio station truck was located and this time talk to a blue t-shirt cladded person. We made our way to that area (my second time there) but there was no one in a blue t-shirt near the radio station truck / tall fence separating the loading area from the general admission area.
Eventually, I flagged a man from the loading area who told me to go see the yellow clad female security guard in the “VIP/Front Row” section. This time around, I made my way past the people in the general admission area and tapped the female security guard on the shoulder. Once I showed her my printed ticket, she did have a little stamp to offer me. Once all three of us had shown our tickets and each received the elusive stamp, the female security guard turned her back to us. I then asked her how do we get into the “VIP/Front Row” area. She then pointed to a small space in the fencing separating the “VIP/Front Row” and general admission areas that we could squeeze through. There were people from the general admission area blocking that very tiny entrance but the three of us eventually made it in. To add insult to injury, now that I was standing in the paid section of the festival, a larger woman who was sitting in the general admission area complained that I was blocking her view and ability to videotape Honeymoon Suite‘s performance. Some guy in the “VIP/Front row” section seemed to be backing up her “request” which I found bewildering for many reasons including that I paid for my ticket while she was there free of charge. The guy in question “suggested” to me that I walk back towards the side of the stage to allow this woman an unimpeded view. I went the other way instead towards the middle of the “VIP/Front Row” area and was able to catch the last minute or so of Honeymoon Suite‘s last song of the night — “New Girl Now.”
Clearly, the Sound of Music Festival has some improvements to do when it comes to having people access its Access Storage Stage‘s “VIP/Front Row” area. I would have been quite pissed if I had just arrived a few minutes before Skid Row‘s set and had to deal with this type of incompetence and lack of organization. That being said, the rest of my experiences at the Sound of Music Festival were quite positive.
Honeymoon Suite’s setlist (as per setlist.fm):
01. Say You Don’t Know Me
02. Burning In Love
04. Stay In The Light
05. Wave Babies
06. Feel It Again
07. New Girl Now
Honeymoon Suite performing “Feel It Again” live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2022 (video from Jim Symington‘s YouTube page):
Skid Row were scheduled to hit the stage at 9:30 pm and they eventually went on about 15 minutes later. The man who announced the group indicated that the 18 year old in him from back in 1989 was super excited to introduce the band, or something to that effect. I couldn’t help but think back to when I first saw Skid Row play live when they opened for the mighty Aerosmith at the Ottawa Civic Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada way back in January 1990. In any case, to get myself pumped up for Skid Row‘s set at the Sound of Music Festival, I put on their self-titled debut album while driving to the festival. I probably had not listened to the album from start to finish in over two decades. All I could think of was “Wow! This is one of the greatest albums ever!”
Given that I had been wanting to see Erik Grönwall perform in a live setting for many years now, and having felt the buzz and excitement that he has brought to Skid Row during the last two months, I have to admit that my expectations were sky high for the band’s set. Although it was quite frustrating accessing the “VIP/Front row” section, I couldn’t believe what a great view that I had for only $40 Cdn + surcharges. I was just one row behind the barrier separating the stage from the audience with a sea of people behind me. It was hard to believe that it had been 32 years since I had seen Skid Row perform live. To put things into perspective, Grönwall was only two years old when I attended my first Skid Row concert in January 1990. To be honest, I have never been enthralled with any of Skid Row‘s various replacements for Sebastian Bach over the years consisting of Johnny Solinger (R.I.P.), Tony Harnell and ZP Theart. It wasn’t until Skid Row recruited Grönwall that I suddenly really wanted to see the band play live again. I also never really liked any of the post-Bach material that Skid Row came up with but I have to say that the band’s new single “The Gang’s All Here” with Grönwall really rocks and is a throwback to those two first Skid Row albums in terms of quality.
With very little fanfare, the Skid Row members came out onto the outdoor stage one by one. Grönwall was the last to take the stage and delivered exactly what I expected from him — an enthusiastic, high energy performance highlighted by his incredible voice. Grönwall was smiling through the night and just seemed to be having a great time. He jumped off from the stage (which was probably a five foot drop) two to three times to get closer to the “VIP/Front Row” area and took someone’s cell phone for an extended period during the song “The Gang’s All Here.” The Swedish rocker seemed to fit right in although I didn’t see that much interaction between him and his bandmates throughout the night.
Towards the latter part of the band’s set, Grönwall noted that he had been drinking with guitarist Dave “Snake” Sabo the night before and it had been rough keeping up with his bandmate and getting up the next morning but he was here on this night rocking away. I couldn’t tell that Grönwall was hung over in any way or suffering from the prior evening’s debauchery but Sabo certainly showed that he could drink. I wasn’t keeping an eye on the guitarist that much throughout the evening but I did notice that he did receive at least three beers from a nearby roadie and one of them, he chugged in one shot in record time after asking everyone in the audience to have a drink with him to celebrate the night or whatever he conveyed. Sabo proved to have a good sense of humour as well since after chugging that beer, he advised that everyone had to be good at something…
In terms of the songs themselves, the setlist was of course heavy on the first two Skid Row albums with seven songs from the debut self-titled one (1989) and six from Slave To The Grind (1991). There were no surprises in the setlist and frankly, I don’t think that I would do many changes to it aside from dropping The Ramones‘ cover “Psycho Therapy.” Bassist Rachel Bolan did handle the lead vocal duties for that one (and he did a great job) so perhaps playing that song was simply to give a little break to Grönwall around the middle of the group’s set. In any case, I could have easily done without that song being played live. Speaking of vocals, I was impressed with the background vocals from Sabo, Bolan and guitarist Scotti Hill on this night. I have seen Sebastian Bach play live a number of times and his solo band’s background vocals just seem to lack a little bit compared to what his former Skid Row bandmates were able to deliver. Throw in Grönwall‘s exceptional voice — and let’s face it, at this point, Grönwall sings the Skid Row tunes better than Bach currently does — and you have some great sounding songs in a live setting.
Skid Row performing “18 And Life” live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2022 (video from shits and giggles‘ YouTube page):
I was surprised to see Hill handling so many guitar solos throughout the show. I guess that I have always assumed in the last 30 plus years that Sabo was handling most of the lead guitar duties but that certainly was not the case on this night. Bolan was a rock on the bass and could be seen singing just about every lyric of each song that was played. The sound from the stage was very good from my vantage point so kudos to the Sound of Music Festival for getting that right. I was also impressed with when Bolan and Sabo each individually addressed the crowd at different points in the evening. Bolan thanked the Canadian crowd for all the support over the years while Sabo thanked the audience for allowing the Skid Row members to play music for a living. Both of their addresses felt genuine and coming from the heart.
Overall, Skid Row met my lofty expectations on this night and I look forward to their new album The Gang’s All Here, which will be released via earMusic on October 14, 2022. Funny enough, when Grönwall mentioned that Skid Row had a new studio album coming out, the crowd reaction was kind of lukewarm. It will be interesting to see whether Skid Row will be able to carve out a significant chapter of their history with their new material now that they have Grönwall in the line-up or whether they will still be riding the coattails from those first two albums released more than 30 years ago (and there is nothing wrong with that). The most important thing for Skid Row going forward is that they finally have a singer that can sing the early material really well and that also possesses enough charisma and stage presence to match and make people forget Sebastian Bach. There aren’t too many singers that can fill the gargantuan shoes left by Bach but Grönwall seems to be the best man for the job.
Skid Row’s setlist (as per setlist.fm):
01. Slave To The Grind
02. The Threat
03. Big Guns
04. 18 And Life
05. Piece of Me
06. Livin’ On A Chain Gang
07. Psycho Therapy
08. In A Darkened Room
09. Makin’ A Mess
10. Psycho Love
11. Monkey Business
12. I Remember You
13. Sweet Little Sister
14. The Gang’s All Here
15. Youth Gone Wild
Skid Row performing “Monkey Business” live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2022 (video from shits and giggles‘ YouTube page):
Skid Row performing “The Gang’s All Here” live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2022 (video from shits and giggles‘ YouTube page):