The last time Judge Bill Gibron visited Skid Row, he was wearing a threadbare Salvation Army overcoat and drinking Thunderbird from a paper sack.
Here's one for all you rock-lovin' mothertruckers!
If there weren't already a David Lee Roth, Sebastian Bach would definitely be in the running for clown prince of heavy metal. He's got the cock-rock moves down pat, has a wickedly whip-smart way with words, and generates the same genial, goofball vibe as the ex-Van Halen front man. He also has the same tendency to get in Dutch with both his bandmates and the Establishment.
A fixture at the forefront of hard rock since his group, the near-seminal Skid Row, broke out in 1989 with their MTV-favored self-titled debut album, Bach has been surrounded by success, controversy, and disappointment. Many a prom queen danced to the hit "I Remember You" while the cool dateless dudes stayed at home and banged their head to the power-chord crunch of "Youth Gone Wild" and "18 and Life" Charismatic and a little crazy (well…okay…a lot crazy), it wasn't long before Bach was following in the infamous felonious footsteps of other metal musicians like Axl Rose and Ozzy Osbourne. After receiving a beer bottle to the head during a concert, Bach haphazardly hurled the object back into the crowd, injuring a female fan. A trial date and a conviction later, he was sentenced to three years' probation. Then he made an abhorrent appearance on MTV wearing a T-shirt proclaiming that "AIDS Kills F**S Dead!" and the hot water really started to scald. Skid Row saw its sales decline, and the band soon parted ways with Bach. After years outside the limelight, VH-1 brought Bach back to host a TV show. It died after a few episodes. Now, we get a chance to see both sides of Sebastian Bach as Eagle Vision has released Sebastian Bach: Forever Wild, a combination live concert and clip compilation from his unfortunate stint as a TV host.
Performing live in 1998 at the famed LA hotspot, the Whiskey a-Go-Go—his first time there as a solo artist—Sebastian Bach fronts a modest heavy metal combo in a rather intimate, personal setting (this is not arena rock, folks). As the crowd sleepwalks and snoozes through the majority of his electrifying performance, Bach and his band blow through a crazy set of songs, including the following examples of rock and roll thunder:
• "Sleep": from the self-titled album by Last Hard Men
As filler in-between set breaks—which appear to be opportunities for Bach to make glam-slam costume changes—we are treated to some of the best segments from his ill-fated TV show for VH-1, Forever Wild. We witness the following musician-inspired mayhem:
• "Bach in the Basement": Sebastian and his band
rehearse. Hijinks ensue.
You have to say this right up front: Sebastian Bach has one hell of a voice. Full and rich, with just the right amount of heavy metal shred and shriek, it's as vital an instrument as any other piece in his musically accomplished backup band. Bach has a few trained quirks that you start to recognize after a while (the way he grabs his mic with both hands and shifts his body to the right before he lets out a trademark wail), but for the most part, he is just a magnificent showman with a stellar set of chops. It's hard to understand why he is not more appreciated for his vocal skill. Maybe it's the low profile he's been keeping. Perhaps it's the past problems keeping him in legacy check—he has been chided for his demented diva antics. Whatever the reasons, Bach should be better thought of for his skills both as a singer and front man. Unlike most hard rock artists, Bach is also open to new experiences and experiments with his musical output. Sure, he is still married to heavy metal mania, but he is not beyond a subtle acoustic ballad or a straight-ahead blues romp. He's even starred on Broadway (in Jeykll and Hyde: the Musical) and formed a strange experimental group called the Last Hard Men with ex-members of the Breeders and Smashing Pumpkins.
Bach and his band are the best things about this DVD. He is a stellar performer who infuses every moment onstage with energy and vitality. Too bad he is playing to the living dead. The crowd could really care less that he is performing for them, and they only come to life when their lemming-like minds recognize such Skid Row singles as "18 & Life" or "I Remember You." Bach tries everything in his bag of bravado tricks to get the lackluster audience inspired, and aside from the few hair-flying metalheads banging away, he can only motivate ennui. Otherwise, the musical elements of Sebastian Bach: Forever Wild are magnificent. The compositions reverberate with a kind of ballistic blasting-cap craziness that suits Bach's screams perfectly. The instrumentation is stadium-rock ready, and the stage dynamics are loose but not sloppy. Bach puts on a good show, and the reliance on material from all aspects of his career (Skid Row to solo)—as well as a couple of clever cover versions—really makes the Whiskey segments soar.
The Forever Wild clips, on the other hand, are a little dumb. When he's with a viable subject—like the always-enigmatic Motor City Madman, the keen carnivore Ted Nugent—there is a fun kind of fanboy foolishness to the segments. You really can tell when Bach hits it off with the focus of his report. But there are other moments when it seems like Bach is involved in some manner of mass media masturbation. The microphone lesson never comes to life, and the potential excitement of a kung fu exhibition instead turns into a bad overdubbing cliché-fest. Yet again, Bach nearly saves this material with his wild, wooly wickedness. You can sense how hemmed in he is by VH-1's standards and practices, and that if given a chance, he'd truly create something as controversial and classic as said music channel's other experiment in front man fury, John Lydon's Rotten Television.
Yet for all its unfulfilling aspects, for the lazy concertgoers and middle-of-the-road rock show histrionics, Sebastian Bach: Forever Wild is a wonderful look at an aging rocker who still wants to take the stage and sell his soul for heavy metal mania. Thankfully, Eagle Vision gives this DVD the proper red carpet treatment, meshing the concert footage with the TV material flawlessly for an incredible 1.33:1 full screen image. While the Whiskey footage is a tad grainy and foggy at times, it has to be because of the original elements, not the remastered transfer. Equally impressive is the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround that truly opens up the ambiance of the event to let us feel like part of that lethargic crowd. With the excellent musicianship flowing out of the multi-channel offering, this DVD sounds fantastic and really impresses with its sonic reproduction. There is also a standard 2.0 version of the show that is not as noteworthy.
As for bonuses, Eagle Vision provides a nice selection of deleted material, behind-the-scenes footage, and a very interesting, novel approach to discographies. Bach actually sits down and offers interview insights into several of the songs featured in both his own and Skid Row's career. Hearing him discussing the dynamics that went into certain songs is a truly engaging experience. Also, anyone wanting to hear Bach in full Great White Way mode should check out his in-concert rendition (from another show) of "This is the Moment" from Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical. It's a magnificent and moving performance. Along with additional Forever Wild segments and a couple of true blooper moments, the added material here really fleshes out the title.
But the main focus remains that crazy court jester of the power chord; that riff-riding, randy jackrabbit named Sebastian Bach. While he is no longer a part of what many consider to be one of the great bands of the '80s and '90s, he is still able to hold his own against the aspiring poseurs who angst away the amphitheater's attention with their self-indulgent drivel. Bach may be a fool, but he is a wise one, and Forever Wild is a great reminder of his presence and command as a musician and an individual.
Mr. Roth better watch out. There is a new challenger to the throne. And he's no pretender.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Vision
• Discography with Bach Commentary
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