Sebastian Bach - Limelight, Belfast
Tuesday 12th June 2012
From his early days of mainstream success as frontman with heavy metal giants Skid Row from 1987 to 1996 to a somewhat hit-and-miss solo career ever since, Sebastian Bach is generally – justifiably – renowned for possessing one of the most powerful and distinctive voices in rock. But twenty odd years on from his heyday, the question remains: now 44 years of age, does Bach still have what it takes to command songs demanding both physical stamina and vocal prowess?
The arrival of Bach amidst the powerhouse intro to ‘Slave To The Grind’ – one of Skid Row’s biggest songs – sees an immediate reverence from the crowd. Masterfully swinging his microphone over his head and belting out forceful falsettoesque vocals with visible intent, Bach is on form early on, a kick-ass one-two of ‘Kicking and Screaming’ and the riff-heavy ‘Dirty Power’ ending in deafening applause.
Irrespective of your thoughts on his musical stylings, Bach’s natural likability cannot be denied. Self-effacing and swaggering in equal proportion, the Canadian’s thick twang belies a warmth and genuine appreciation for his fans’ reaction tonight. “Belfast, how the ---- are ya?!” begins his first monologue, determining that it’s twenty-one years since he last played here – a period, we learn, older than his rhythm guitarist tonight.
Skid Row singalong ‘Here I Am’ arrives next with its slick parallel riffage and blasting drum phrases. Bach, slightly struggling to reach the very high notes, still manages to pass it all off with vigorous effect. Over the last three decades, it seems Bach’s quasi-cult status holds weight: never before has the Limelight seemed as thoroughly packed; the mere thought of moving from one end of the room to the other as thoroughly unlikely as a Skid Row reunion in the coming months.
With the crowd in the palm of his hand – not to mention a first-rate backing band on note every time – Bach jokingly announces the arrival of Axl Rose, who provided studio vocals in his next track, ‘Love Is A B****slap’. Oddly, for a half a second, it seemed possible but, as Bach drolly points out, Rose wouldn’t have been on time anyway.
With the heat becoming almost unbearable, Bach and most of his band are bare-chested for majority of the show, the singer dripping with sweat and visibly breathless at various points. While Skid Row anthems such as ‘Big Guns’ and mass singalong tonight ‘18 and Life’ sees the singer struggle a little, it all comes together on the riff-fuelled groove of 'Monkey Business' – a stand-out song tonight. With his young rhythm guitarist just finished smoking a cigarette on stage (you read right), Bach and his band end on the hectic force of ‘Youth Gone Wild’, a long-awaited return to Belfast making for an adored reception of a man still with few rivals in rock.