Metaract made their way to their stage positions with the Robocop movie theme booming, evoking a fun yet epic atmosphere. “Are you ready?!”, screamed guitarist Chris Yong. Coupled with ringing strings, drummer Clayton Gould kicked things off with a snappy beat, heralding the band’s lead single Never Forget, an upbeat metal song with shifts in rhythm and vocal styles. Guitar-playing was handled effortlessly by guitarist Sharne Scarborough as well as frontman, Yong, especially when the moment called for a guitar solo. The band's stage presence was also further amplified by bassist Victor Pesch, bouncing about and head-banging to the bass-lines. The set varied at times from Kiss-esque 80’s grooves to adrenaline-fueled thrash metal passages, all executed well by all four band members.
Though audience numbers were quite sparse, plenty of heads were nodding to the beats and sounds. This is one band that has a little something to offer for every rock and metal fan – Be it fast guitar solos, thrash riffs, beefy breakdowns, screaming vocals or big sing-along choruses. After only five songs, the crowd was sufficiently energised for the next band, and – of course – Skid Row.
The Auckland band Silence The City took their positions on stage and got right to work, with Adam Davey behind the kit laying down a strong pulsating beat, Andrew Kerr on guitar riffing in post-hardcore style, and Justin Pitt rounding off the sound with bold vocals that interplay with the drum rhythms. Strong bass-lines were laid down by Sam French. The sound throughout the set shifted quickly from moody and mid-tempo to high energy choruses and heavy breakdowns then back again, in the sensibilities of modern alternative rock and metal, like a punk-infused version of Shihad. Crowd response was warm, with energy in the audience at peaks during both heavy segments and melodic choruses, but this improved noticeably towards the last half of the band’s 7-song set.
Perhaps Silence the City had it a bit tough bearing a performance that was slightly different to the rock n’ roll sound and style to Metaract and Skid Row. Still, the band held on well, and pulled off an impressive set. By the end of the final song, lead vocalist Pitt gave a quick thank you to the audience and the main act Skid Row, then the band quickly moved off the stage.
A few months ago, I was excited to hear that former DragonForce singer ZP Theart had recently taken up the mantle of main vocals for Skid Row. As a long-time fan of DragonForce and knowing Theart’s vocal range and style, I was eager to witness how his singing fares with Skid Row.
Along with Theart, plus the aptly-named drummer Rob Hammersmith, adding in the original members Rachel Bolan on bass guitar, Scotti Hill and Dave Sabo sharing guitar duties gives you the present-day incarnation of Skid Row.
The band strode on stage to chants from eager fans with The Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop over the sound system (presumably their signature entrance tune?) and tore straight into their metallic and wild Slave to the Grind. Theart’s flamboyant presence and loud personality was immediately likeable and boosted the on-stage energy.
Guitarist Scotti Hill proved throughout the set, particularly in the song Big Guns, that he could still throw a guitar around and pull off thrilling solos, as seen during Makin’ a Mess, of which he made no mess at all. Hammersmith drove the pace of each number with rigid power, yet could still glide and groove in relaxed passages where necessary. Coupled with Rachel Bolan’s bouncing bass-lines, this served perfectly as the rocking backbone to the performance.
Through a handful of technical glitches, Theart was able to banter with the audience and entertain, holding people’s attention whilst stage-hands fixed respective instruments. In terms of singing, Theart is just as dynamic as Sebastian Bach’s in original recordings, albeit with more vocal flourishes and scream-shrieks at the end of lines.
Halfway through the set, Theart retreated off-stage and bassist Rachel Bolan took up a microphone and thanked the audience for their years of support, loudly declaring that “Rock n’ roll is still alive in Auckland”. Guitarist Dave Sabo then took his turn to express his gratitude to Auckland fans for choosing to see their show on a Thursday night – then proceeded to chug a beer. This made for a touching, personal acknowledgement from the band to their fans, which one doesn’t see happen at every rock show.
With a sly blues-rock guitar lick, the song Monkey Business began... bounding right into a deep-grooved set of riffs and drove the audience into a mass of bobbing heads. Halfway through the song, Sabo and Hill proceeded to have a battle of guitar solos, outdoing each other in dexterity. Typically, long guitar solos run the risk of losing the audience's interest if played for too long. Had it not been for the brief nod to Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell from Sabo, my own interest may have been lost entirely! At the end of the guitar duel, plus one last chorus of Monkey Business, the band thanked the fans and promptly left the stage.
With some re-arrangement of equipment and very little delay, the band re-emerged for the encore. The audience were treated to I Remember You, another ballad from Skid Row’s debut release, and the more attitude-fuelled Get the Fuck Out, which saw half the venue yelling the four words in jest back at the stage.
“Is it okay if we go on?”, Theart asked. Unsurprisingly, the crowd screamed for more, to which the band responded with the opening riffs of their signature song Youth Gone Wild.
At the end, I was pleasantly surprised by how well ZP Theart fitted in with the present Skid Row outfit. He brought with him a youthful energy onto the stage, and put his voice to good use. Along with the founding members at the forefront, effortlessly providing lead guitars and rhythm work, Skid Row's performance in Auckland's Studio the venue assured fans that there’s longevity in the band.
Rock n’ roll simply will never stop, and that the youths gone wild will continue to run wild.
Check out more images in the photo gallery further below.