Sebastian Bach/Stormzone - Belfast, Limelight - 12th June 2012 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby   
Thursday, 21 June 2012 04:00

bachukBuilt largely on reclaimed land over sleechy river beds, Belfast often is pervaded by a sulphurous, gaseous odour, especially on humid summer evenings. However, in the days leading up to this particular gig, an altogether different smell had been detected in the city's atmosphere: it was that of estrogen, as the local female population - most of them ladies of a certain age, shall we say, who should really know better - positively drooled and salivated at the prospect of one of the sexiest men in the rock 'n' roll Über-verse gracing a local stage for the first time in a little over two decades. And the fact that former Skid Row frontman Bach had flown into Northern Ireland a few days beforehand, for a bit of 'chillaxing' - to coin the modern vernacular - and sightseeing had only served to build the anticipation levels to almost fever pitch by the time the doors opened...

 

Tasked with setting the scene were local heroes Stormzone - and no better an outfit could there have been assigned to the job... while he may not be (quite) in Bach's league, frontman Harv shares many of the Californian's characteristics - tall, tanned, athletic, not unpleasing to look at (and we're speaking from the perspective of the female audience members here, you understand), with a long mane of hair, a truckload of charisma, terrific crowd rapport and one helluva powerful voice. While time restrictions curtailed their set to just six songs, the boys nevertheless lived up to their name, whipping up a tornado with a run through of crowd favourites, from the anthemic opener 'Where We Belong' and the rallying cry of 'Immortals' through the epic 'The Memory Never Dies' - "let's make sure Sebastian Bach remembers Belfast as the best fucking night of this tour," the frontman cajoled - to the closing salvo of 'The Legend Carries On', this was good old fashioned heavy metal played the way it should be: loud and proud.

 

Excitement was at fever pitch, and the sold-out venue literally crammed to the rafters (and beyond) when Sebastian Bach bounded onto the cramped Limelight stage as the band tore into the opening riff of 'Slave To The Grind': whirling his long blond hair and his microphone with equal frenzy, he looked fit and relaxed, grinning from ear to ear like the proverbial Cheshire Cat and genuinely seemed humbled by the frenzied reaction - a mere 30 seconds into his set, swooning bodies were already being carried from the pit area (Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration!)...

 

From thereon in, his 14-song set, which came in at just over an hour in length (again, due to time restrictions - caused by a dreadfully early curfew) was a complete masterclass, as he drove the capacity crowd absolutely wild, 'Kicking And Screaming' with his 'Devil Power'. Pausing for breath to remind himself that it had been 21 years since he last visited Belfast (on 1991's 'Slave To The Grind'), Bach enjoyed what proved not to be the first joke of the night at the expense of guitar wunderkind Nick Sterling - remarking that he was "just a stain on his daddy's trouser leg" way back then - before ploughing straight back into the Skid Row back catalogue with the double whammy of 'Here I Am' and 'Big Guns', the latter still delivered with his tongue very firmly in his cheek.

 

Not for the first time, Bach soon was feeling the effects of the furnace-like temperature: "rock 'n' roll is a great weight loss programme - it's hotter than a motherfucker up here!" before winding the audience up by asking if anyone liked Guns N' Roses (a question answered with boos and cheers in equal measure) and proclaiming "please welcome Axl...".  He then lambasted his good friend's timekeeping, or lack thereof: "if Axl were gonna come up, he wouldn't even be here yet! Why the fuck does he do that? Hell, we've no monitor boards up here, but we don't give a fuck!" serving as the intro to '(Love Is A) Bitchslap'.

 

Young gun Sterling used the cover of dry ice to sneak a cheeky smoke during the intro to 'Stuck Inside' before Bach invited every woman in the audience to take a 'Piece Of Me' (he later broke all their hearts by introducing his fiancée, who immediately tried to hide under the sound desk). As the united crowd sang the intro to '18 And Life', Seb finally took his top off, evoking the kind of reaction akin to that caused by a virgin walking into a room of hungry vampires, and the song proved to be one of the highlights of the night, even though he didn't quite hit the top of his vocal register - although he did prove he can still scream with the best of them, especially on the pursuant 'American Metalhead'.

 

With Bach having asked "will someone buy this boy a cheeseburger?" a little earlier, the supremely skinny Sterling got his own back by tossing bananas into the crowd during an uproarious 'Monkey Business', before, as the curfew ticked closer, things were slowed right down with the beautiful new single, 'I'm Alive' and the ever passionate 'I Remember You' (again, Seb didn't quite hit those high notes) before bringing the set to a close with the now ironic but still utterly brilliant 'Youth Gone Wild', which, likes it protagonist, is wearing well for its age.

 

Skid Row never quite fitted into that squeaky-clean hair metal bracket of so many of their contemporaries, being more the bad boys of the pack. And, while many of those from the same era have become parodies of themselves, Sebastian Bach still delivers the goods as one of the most charismatic frontmen and talented vocalists of his generation, with a catalogue of songs that does not seem to have aged one iota. Even this hardened old hack caught himself humming quietly as he wandered home in the late evening drizzle...

 

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* Footnote: This was the first night of a three date headline tour, which went on to include dates in Glasgow and London. As the bands travelled between the two cities, Stormzone singer Harv posted the following message on Facebook, via his mobile:  "Due to circumstances way beyond our control, nor ability to fathom, we regret to announce that upon arriving in London we have found ourselves off the Sebastian Bach tour (by order of the man himself)! Long journey back, gonna set gear up on boat and play anyway! Gutted!!"

 

The circumstances are still unclear, with reports that Stormzone guitarist Andrew Baxter was involved in a street fight with Bach's sound engineer, and others that Bach was upset at both the Glasgow venue having been downgraded and the reception his Northern Irish support band received: Bach is also reported to have thrown a microphone stand at photographers in the pit in Glasgow during his first number, and to have stormed off stage before the end of 'Youth Gone Wild'. At the time of writing, no official statement has been forthcoming from Sebastian Bach or his management as to why Stormzone were dropped from the final show. From reaction on Facebook, however, it is clear that Bach has some explaining to do to the Belfast fans who received him so warmly...