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Skid Row / Backyard Babies / H.E.A.T. / Vega / KilliT (London Review) http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/d4/c8/f4/Skid-Row-Live-Thumb-55-1551724523.jpg Hot

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Skid Row / Backyard Babies / H.E.A.T. / Vega / KilliT (London Review) - O2 Forum, London (UK) - 26 January 2019

With five bands scheduled over six hours - and a stacked line-up to boot - the O2 Forum had the feel of a mini-festival for the last date on Skid Row's UK tour. London had a special opening treat in the form of home band KilliT. With a full-throated sound, the five-piece made filling the Forum stage look easy. It was a heavy and gutsy performance featuring strong bass, flashes of melodic choruses, and some gnarly guitar riffs. A couple of songs maybe dragged out a little, feeling slightly directionless. They brought it back and hit the spot, however, with a tight delivery of their punchy upcoming single, 'Love Is The Chemical'. It's not always easy opening a crowded line-up, but KilliT took it in their hard-hitting, no-frills stride.

Vega were the first of the "on tour" bands and boy were their fans ready for them. The UK AOR five-piece blasted onto stage with a fat, melodic sound, strongly oriented around the vocals of Nick Workman. At times the mix felt a little crowded; the big notes, keys and soaring choruses came through fine but distinction for the bass and guitars was lacking. The band were clearly well-rehearsed, though at times it bordered on being overly-polished for a live performance The crowd engagement and, dare I say, cheesy on-stage band interactions came across as manufactured and overly PG. While the music filled the Forum, the performance lacked the energy and attitude of KilliT.

H.e.a.t came on at the appropriate time when the crowd was just hotting up. The Swedish rockers cantered through many of their most recent tracks including 'Bastard Of Society', 'Shit City' and a stellar performance of 'Redefined'. Vocalist Erik Grönwall dominated the performance – whatever he is on, I want some for Monday mornings – but the added grit in their attitude lent itself well to the whole band. A mash up of 'Beg Beg Beg' featuring a cover of 'Whole Lotta Rosie' went down a treat, the electrifying solo from guitarist Dave Dalone a particular highlight. The sound was heavier than previous gigs – a trend in the direction of their music, perhaps – and unfortunately the keys floundered low in the mix. Nevertheless, you couldn't fault their crowd engagement and, while it would have been interesting to hear some older stuff too, their overwhelming spirit was infectious.

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Backyard Babies swaggered out with a certain mature confidence that marked them out from their predecessors. They weren't out there to prove anything, and the devil-may-care attitude quietly exuded this. Fortunately, the crowd were pretty warmed up by this point so anything the band lacked in crowd engagement was generally unnoticed. Guitarist Dregen skipped and waltzed about – like a loose cannon waiting to go off – both his stage manner and gruff vocals a fantastic contrast to frontman Nicke Borg's straight-talking, stand-and-deliver style. 'Shovin' Rocks' – from their upcoming album – paid tribute to their thirty years in music. The way they effortlessly soaked up the size of the stage, despite being the smallest band (in size) on the bill, spoke volumes. Two gems stood out; the first was a captivating performance of 'A Song For The Outcast', merging acoustic and electric between Borg and Dregen. There was something powerful about the way they shared the microphone – Borg's caustic reverb against Dregen's croaky growl. The second highlight was an explosive 'Th1rt3en Or Nothing' and, though a shame about the backing track, it added that extra dose of energy to take it to the next level.

Skid Row had a fair amount to live up to. One always hopes that bands with such history will continue to perform mind-blowing shows, but it's by no means a given. They came out 'Big Guns' blazing though. Steaming through their hits such as 'Slave To The Grind', 'Rattlesnake Shake', and 'Sweet Little Sister', the whole band exuded intensity. Well-drilled, they blasted through a "long set" by even vocalist ZP Theart's admission, with minimal fuss and a powerful, bare-bones set-up. Skid Row often seem like they need a charismatic, larger-than-life frontman and ex-Dragonforce singer ZP Theart was just the ticket. Fitting in like he'd never not been around, Theart commanded the stage while also having the capability and craft to give way to guitarists Dave 'Snake' Sabo and Scotti Hill when it was right. Sabo gave a spoken tribute to fans of Rock 'n' Roll, promising to try not to "fuck this next song up" while Hill's solo in particular had electrifying clarity. Bassist Rachel Bolan moodily paced the stage, providing the foundations for a beautifully haunting 'In A Darkened Room'; Theart captured the tormented emotion of the track in a twisting vocal performance. 'I Remember You' got a thunderous reception and the band closed out with a long-awaited, elongated version of 'Youth Gone Wild'. Charged, tight, and mashing up laid-back confidence with a growling, animalistic sound, they've still got it.

Sophie Brownlee

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