REVIEW: Skid Row, Warrant and Quiet Riot Rock Turn Back Time to the ’80s in Pompano Beach
It’s been said that ’80s hair bands greatly influenced rock music for a little more than a decade starting in the early 1980s and found its first fans inside small clubs along the famed Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, widely regarded as the birthplace of hair metal bands that played before bar-sized crowds in such places as The Troubadour, The Roxy, The Whiskey, and even the Reseda Country Club. Those small clubs served as the launching pad for many glam rock bands such as Quiet Riot, Warrant, and Skid Row, propelling them straight to the top while they charted huge radio and MTV hits. It is Quiet Riot that holds the distinction of being one of the early successes of hair bands, glam bands, hard rock bands, or whatever else you wish to call them. The music of these metal titans brought together a generation of the youth-gone-wild music-loving metal heads who often found themselves playing cassette tapes in their cars rocking out to hits like “Cum on Feel the Noize” from bands with leather jackets, big hair, and the loudest ear-splitting metal an ear drum could tolerate. These iconic rock songs of the ’80s included high-pitched melodic choruses, big hooks, guitar solos, and catchy guitar riffs. At that time, it looked like metal bands would be around forever as album sales peaked, and the demand for tickets did too. This was before the rise of grunge music in the early ’90s.
There was a rock concert on Friday night, May 20, at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater. The Live To Rock Tour rolled into South Florida on a typically rainy and humid May night. The venue played host to three of the biggest names in metal that are certainly included in the top 10 of rock’s greatest hair bands. However, there were a few things that worked against this show that evening. Concerts held in South Florida at this time of the year are often plagued by rain. As it turns out, the weather played havoc for concert-goers, dampening some of the anticipation and excitement as huge rains dumped record amounts throughout the day. Fortunately, if you managed to get from your car to the venue without a good soaking, you were in the clear as the Pompano Beach Amphitheater’s newly installed canopy worked well keeping the faithful who attended dry for the remainder of the night.
There was a buzz in the air as the crowd meandered into the venue; it was clear they were there to rock out. Many of the age 50-plus crowd found themselves in search of a cold beer while others checked out the merch tent, trying to find that nostalgic t-shirt that might fit. Many fans did their best to turn back the clock with ’80s style dress, digging deep in their closets to find their tightest jeans, leather jackets, and darkest makeup. There was even one guy who stood out wearing parachute pants and a Van Halen t-shirt. After all, many were reliving the concerts they attended as high school kids who wanted to get stoned and rock out for a few hours, the normal things we did as kids. Of course, it’s not 1983, and we are all a bit grayer and simply don’t quite fit into those leather pants anymore.
With memories fading from your high school days, the metal music seems to also be fading. This concert was lightly attended; the amphitheater was at most about 60% full. Certainly the weather may have played a part, but many people this age, who have been there, done that, no longer want to attend too many concerts these days, especially ’80s rock shows. Another point of contention is that the bands themselves have changed lineups so often that a casual fan may not be able to recognize the names of the very few remaining original members, and you often hear references that these are cover bands playing under the band’s moniker.
One of the biggest names in metal is Quiet Riot who achieved mainstream success shooting straight to the top with 1983’s album Metal Health that produced radio-hits “Cum on Feel the Noize” and “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” the album has been credited with starting the metal era. However, the band’s follow-up album 1984’s Critical Condition would be the last charting album for the group who in future releases would never repeat their early album-selling success again. On this night the intimate gathering of rock faithful welcomed Quiet Riot with loud cheers and whistles. They were without any original members, but it seemed like the crowd didn’t care. What the crowd craved was a solid rock show, and that’s what Riot delivered, with longtime Cuban-born bassist Rudy Sarzo on the 5-stringer; he was a huge part of Quiet Riot’s early success and was the lead guitarist on Metal Health that became the band’s signature album.
The remaining members are a group of well-tenured, recognized musicians who include Jizzy Pearl (lead vocals), Alex Grossi (guitars), and Johnny Kelly (drums). Quiet opened their short six-song set with “Slick Black Cadillac” and followed with “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” (Slade cover), “Let’s Get Crazy,” “Crazy Train” (Ozzy Osbourne cover),” “Cum On Feel the Noize” (Slade cover), and “Metal Health (Bang Your Head).” Quiet Riot in its present form put on a great rock show, but the original band is a memory, as original lead singer and front man Kevin DuBrow (died 2007) and iconic metal guitarist Randy Rhoads (died 1982) are no longer with us.
Following a high-energy show from Quiet Riot were metal icons Warrant. The L.A.-based glam rock band formed in 1984 finds itself with just two remaining original members: guitarist Erik Turner and bassist Jerry Dixon. The band found its greatest success in the late ’80s with the release of their first album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (1989) that put Warrant on the map. The album produced several radio hits including “Heaven,” “Down Boys,” and “Sometimes She Cries.” The follow-up album that was released just a year later, Cherry Pie, produced the hit of the same name. Beyond that, Warrant has continued to tour nearly every year, playing mostly on rock cruises and as part of music festivals playing mostly the hits off their first two albums. Former lead singer Jani Lane joined Warrant in 1986 and was a major part of the band’s early success and became the lead vocalist on their first two biggest Warrant albums. However, Lane died in 2011 and was replaced by current lead singer Robert Mason. With Joey Allen on guitar and Steven Sweet pounding on the drums, it gave longtime fans a chance to reconnect with the band and sing along during the brief six-song, 50-minute set that included some favorites: “All My Bridges Are Burning,” “The Hole in My Wall,” “Big Talk,” “Down Boys,” “Sometimes She Cries,” and “Machine Gun.”
Closing out the South Florida stop on the Live to Rock Tour were L.A.-based glam rockers Skid Row. The legendary rockers have continued to thrill crowds for nearly four decades. The band’s recent invigoration is due in part to their new singer, Swedish Idol winner and former H.E.A.T lead vocalist Erik Grönwall, who joined Skid Row after the departure on their longtime vocalist ZP Theart, who was let go from the band earlier this year without a formal announcement as to why he was fired. The band was formed in 1986, and the lineup includes original members lead guitarist Dave “The Snake” Sabo and bassist Rachel Bolan. A year later (1987), guitarist Scotti Hill joined the collective, and all three have played on all six Skid Row releases. Drummer Rob Hammersmith joined in 2010 and has remained the man behind the kit. The lineup isn’t the only thing that is new. Skid Row recently announced the upcoming release of their sixth studio album The Gang’s All Here, set for an October 14 release date.
By the time Skid Row took the stage, the crowd was now primed and ready for a third and final helping of a rock show. Despite the less-than-expected crowd that filled only about 60 percent of the 3,000-seat amphitheater, it was an incredible show. The sound and lighting were superb, adding to the delirium.
Some in the audience who haven’t kept up with the band since the late ’80s may have expected to see Sebastian Bach (1987-1996), but of course since his departure in 1996 Skid Row has had four more lead singers, including longest-serving vocalist Johnny Solinger (1999-2015), Tony Harnell (2015), ZP Theart (2016-2022) and now Grönwall (2022). Grönwall is really good, but he certainly brings an edgier side of the band that we saw more than a decade ago; although the vocalist is very talented, something seemed off, and it just didn’t feel right. He has the stage theatrics that are more in line with a slick punk rock style than an ’80s glam rocker. Clearly Grönwall is a fresh talent among a group of aging rockers and perhaps will meld with his bandmates.
As fans of the metal era become less interested in rock shows, one has to wonder when the long list of metal bands will retire. They will certainly find themselves playing smaller venues and likely will never again fill arenas and stadiums they once did.