The Savage Animal destroys Columbus

Can’t remember the last time I saw Sebastian Bach whip a crowd into a frenzy (probably in ’92 or ’93 when Skid Row opened for Guns N’ Roses) but the Savage Animal completely owned Columbus last night when he (and band) opened for Poison and Dokken at The Schott.

After Dokken’s set, I chatted with Bach’s bassist Rob DeLuca (who totally hooked me up with great seats about 8 rows back on the side of the stage) and guitarist Metal Mike and asked why the hell Bach wasn’t in the middle slot on the bill. Both shrugged their shoulders and said they had been asked that by many a fan and the question was really up to Poison to answer.

It took 24 hours for me to figure it out but it’s painfully obvious now – there is no way Poison would want to follow Bach. It’s better to toss Dokken in the middle slot and let them bring the energy down a bit so that the kids … um … middle-aged crowd of blue-collar rockers and probable “adult entertainers” (seriously, there couldn’t have been a strip club within 50 miles that had enough dancers to cover their shifts last night) explode when Poison hits the stage.

Since Mr.DeLuca provided me with the tickets, this review is going to be about Bach and Dokken because, truthfully, I’ve seen Poison a few times in the last 10 years and wound up leaving 3 songs into their set (I will admit that they did sound great and the crowd was insane when I left during “Ride the Wind”).

Now, I know a lot of people have problems with lead singers who continue to use a band name after all the original members have been replaced (see: Guns N’ Roses, LA Guns) but to me a lead singer IS the band. Sure, I would have loved to have seen Snake Sabo or Rachel Bolan on stage with Bach and performing under the name Skid Row, but Bach has surrounded himself with some great musicians who can handle the Skid Row stuff as well as the original members. Bach’s Angel Down was hands down my favorite hard rock release of 2007 and I was actually kind of hoping for a set full of material from that release though Bach isn’t a dummy and sparingly mixed in songs from Angel Down with a quick run through an abreviated Skid Row Greatest Hits performance. The crowd, which was probably at 70% capacity when Bach was playing, treated the singer and his band like the rock stars they are and Bach, in turn, showed his love for Columbus multiple times by having the floor flooded with lights so he could see the fans.

At first, I thought opening with a cover (Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle”) wasn’t a great idea, especially when Bach’s got so many of his own songs (and Skid Row songs) he could have performed, but in a way, “Back in the Saddle” was the perfect song as Bach’s reintroducing himself to audiences after being away for so long. If somebody had just wandered in off the street and seen the way Bach was in command of the audience, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that HE was headlining the show at the arena rather than opening. The only hiccup came with Metal Mike was playing trying to play the acoustic intro to “By Your Side” but dealing with a guitar that was experiencing technical difficulties. After Bach complained to the guitar tech, he aborted the power ballad from his new album (reminiscent of “I Remember You” and “Quicksand Jesus”) and yelled “Slave to the Grind” (quite the 180 in musical styles). Personal highlights were “Love’s a Bitchslap” (the wife loves the opening line, “Rolling down the avenue / Got my fist in the air”) and “Stuck Inside” where Metal Mike shows off some Dimebag Darrell influence. Of course, all the Skid Row songs were highlights, not only for me but for the rabid crowd. Featured in the set were “18 and Life,” “Monkey Business,” “Slave to the Grind,” “I Remember You,” and the closer, “Youth Gone Wild” dedicted to Dimebag Darrell.

(No footage from Columbus has shown up on YouTube so here’s “Youth Gone Wild” from another date on this tour)

Dokken, unfortunately, sucked away all the energy Bach had spent 45 minutes delivering. I’m a pretty big Dokken fan (trivia fact: the first CD I ever bought was Dokken’s Under Lock and Key which I still own, some 20 years later) and have spent the last couple of weeks listening to Back for the Attack but the performance just didn’t do it for me. Maybe it was the choice in setlist (too much from Tooth & Nail, not enough from Back for the Attack). Maybe it was Don Dokken’s between-song banter (he’s almost 60 and he sounds it when introducing songs). Maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t stop looking at his hair which has long been rumored to be a wig. Maybe it was that his drummer on this tour, Jeff Martin (ex-Racer X, Badlands) (original Dokken drummer Wild Mick Brown is NOT on this tour as he had previous commitments with Ted Nuggent) looked too much like Greg Bissonette of David Lee Roth’s band (spikey blond hair on top, mullet in the back). Whatever it was, I was pretty disappointed though if the band comes back around for a club show, I’d probably go.

As the first show in my “summer of nostalgia” tour (I’ll be checking out Scrap Metal – featuring Mark Slaughter, the Nelson brothers, and Eric Martin of Mr.Big – in a few weeks followed shortly thereafter by a Ratt/Great White double bill), this was a good one. It would have been great had Dokken and Sebastian Bach swapped places on the bill.

Be on the lookout for an interview with Rob DeLuca in the coming weeks. He’s got some interview questions from me in his in-box and promised to get to them when he had some down time during this tour.

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