The LIVE TO ROCK Tour stopped at Sunset Station Outdoor Amphitheater on Saturday, July 23, 2022, featuring performances from Quiet Riot, Winger, Warrant, and Skid Row.
All four of these bands are personal favorites, having seen their share of triumphs on the charts and personal tragedies. Through it all, they’ve persevered in many different incarnations and continue to impress audiences around the globe. Being a classic hard rock/metal fan, I knew this was a show I had to be there for. Granted, I wasn’t looking forward to being outdoors for hours on end in Vegas Valley July heat (I certainly consumed my share of water throughout the evening), but this was a concert I wasn’t going to miss in either event. How did the four bands measure up?
Starting the evening, surprisingly, was Quiet Riot. I would’ve expected the group to play later in the night due to their status in the rock world (the classic METAL HEALTH lineup topped the pop charts; the first metal band to do so!) That said, I was certainly happy to get a chance to see the band play.
Quiet Riot suffered twin tragedies in the past 15 years, with the death of classic vocalist Kevin DuBrow in 2007, and long-time drummer Frankie Banali in 2020. The current lineup of the band features vocalist Jizzy Pearl (of Love/Hate and LA Guns fame), new drummer Johnny Kelly (Type O Negative), guitarist Alex Grossi who has played in the band for nearly two decades, and recently returning to the fray, classic bassist Rudy Sarzo.
While Quiet Riot has continued to record music, this setlist, perhaps unsurprisingly, only consisted of classic 80s era tunes. QR’s set scores points for mixing deep tracks and hits; of the four bands, they’re probably the one who dug the most into their deep album cut vault, even if the majority of the setlist was pulled from one album; 1983’s seminal classic METAL HEALTH. We got the obligatory “pair of hits” in the form of “Metal Health” and the cover of Slade’s “Cum On Feel the Noize” (those two closed out QR’s set), other Slade cover “Mama Weer All Crazee Now,” and deeper cuts from the METAL HEALTH album that included set opener “Run For Cover,” “Slick Black Cadillac,” and “Thunderbird,” the latter lovingly dedicated to the fallen members of the group, including Randy Rhoads, Kevin DuBrow, and most recently, Frankie Banali. The group even found time for an addition Rhoads tribute with an instrumental excerpt of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” (Sarzo and Rhoads, in addition to QR, also played together in Osbourne’s band).
The band was in good spirits. This was my first time seeing the band since Banali’s passing, and new drummer Johnny Kelly, despite having some big shoes to fill, delivered the goods. Alex Grossi has been a member of the Quiet Riot family for years, and also managed to do justice to the classics. Jizzy Pearl is a killer frontman currently enjoying his second stint with the group; the Love/Hate singer is one of my favorite vocalists due to how animated and energetic he is on a live stage. But unsurprisingly, the MVP of the evening was bassist Rudy Sarzo. Even in his 70s, this guy rocks out on stage with more energy and enthusiasm than most frontmen and musicians half his age. I have no reservations in calling this guy my favorite bass player of all time. There’s a reason so many bands/artists want him in their projects.
The biggest weakness in this otherwise stellar set was its brevity; their set time seemed noticeably lesser than the subsequent bands. And while the setlist was good, it literally only pulled from two albums. “The Wild and the Young” from 1986’s QR III album was the biggest noticeable omission as far as “hits” go; it would’ve added a little diversity, though I do respect the band immensely for actually making deep cuts a major portion of their set. The Randy Rhoads tributes were nice, but why not go all out and give us a cut from the first two Japan-only albums like “Back to the Coast” or “Killer Girls?” (“Slick Black Cadillac was originally recorded during the Rhoads era but re-recorded for Metal Health.) But overall a damn solid performance; I’m glad to see the current incarnation keeping the band alive as per Frankie Banali’s dying wishes. They didn’t disappoint.
Quiet Riot Gallery.
Winger took the stage for the second spot of the evening. Former Alice Cooper bassist Kip Winger came into his own with his eponymous band, delivering hit after hit in the late 80s and early 90s, on their debut album WINGER and its follow-up IN THE HEART OF THE YOUNG, even continuing into the 90s with solid musicianship despite changing musical trends. Kip was joined on this evening by classic members keyboardist Paul Taylor and drummer Rod Morgenstein. Kip announced guitarist Reb Beach was missing due to playing on a Whitesnake farewell tour, but that they had a more-than-capable fill-in guitarist from the UK in addition to second guitarist John Roth who’s been with the band for years.
Winger were largely the subject of ridicule back in the day, but audiences who gave them a change found solid musicianship that was more melodic and maybe even slightly progressive compared to their musical peers. The set Winger played was more or less exactly what I expected, as well as the quality of the music being played, but I mean that in a good way. The band delivered hit after hit – “Can’t Get Enuff,” “Seventeen,” (played surprisingly early in the set), “Hungry,” “Miles Away,” “Headed for a Heartbreak,” “Easy Come Easy Go,” and “Madelaine.” The band even went one step beyond and gave us “Down Incognito” from the 1993 PULL album, a criminally underrated third album that never got the proper credit despite a positively-received change in musical direction. Closing out the set was even an unexpected instrumental jam sequence, letting these guys show off their musical chops. If you didn’t know better, you wouldn’t know there was a fill-in guitarist. This guy did Reb Beach proud; no easy task.
The only minor complaints with the Winger set were the omission of “Blind Revolution Mad,” itself another underrated cut and minor hit from the PULL album, and that the band didn’t perform their cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic “Purple Haze;” a song they’d done a great job infusing with 80s energy. But despite that, Winger made great use of the fairly limited set time they were allotted.
Warrant is another band with a long history packed with epic rock and tragedy alike, namely the departure and subsequent passing of classic vocalist Jani Lane in 2011. Fortunately, the group retained most of their classic lineup and filled the vacant frontman slot with a more-than-capable replacement; former Lynch Mob and Cry of Love singer Robert Mason! (There was also a brief period with Black N Blue singer Jaime St. James that spawned one album.) They’ll forever be known for the title track from their second album, 1990’s CHERRY PIE, but had a plethora of hits in an all-too-brief heyday. The group has persevered, changing direction for 1992’s underrated third album DOG EAT DOG, and putting out their most recent album, the aptly-titled LOUDER HARDER FASTER (insert obligatory “that’s what she said” joke here) in 2017.
I’ve seen Warrant a handful of times over the years, and I’ve only see the incarnation of the band with Robert Mason. I sadly never got to see Jani Lane live, either with Warrant or at a solo show. But if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that Mason ROCKS. This guy brings the thunder regardless of what band he’s singing for. It annoys me when people call the current incarnation of Warrant a “tribute band” due to Mr. Lane’s death, when they actually have nearly their entire classic lineup still intact. A rare feat for any band from any era.
Warrant’s set was filed with tracks from their first two albums, 1989’s debut effort DIRTY ROTTEN FILTHY STINKING RICH, and 1990’s follow-up CHERRY PIE. Sadly they played no songs from 1992’s DOG EAT DOG despite on-stage speech and an opening audio clip making a point of mentioning that it was the album’s 30th anniversary. Something like “All My Bridges are Burning,” “April 2031,” or “Andy Warhol Was Right” would’ve made a great addition to a solid set.
But I don’t think the crowd was disappointed in the songs they got. Most of the “hits” got played, and we even got a surprise cover of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” which allowed for much-needed crowd participation. The entire band did justice to these songs, of course culminating in closer “Cherry Pie.” There was a brief delay mid-show when someone had passed out in the VIP pit near the stage, but it wasn’t long before the band was active again, doing their thing in good spirits, even giving a shout out to the venue’s law enforcement officers and first responders. All four bands performed superbly on this evening, but Warrant’s set may very well have been my favorite of the four (and it’s not easy to choose!)
The fourth and final act of the evening was Skid Row. Originating in the New Jersey era and rising to prominence in their heyday with vocalist Sebastian Bach, the group scored massive hits with their first two albums, SKID ROW and SLAVE TO THE GRIND. Following Bach’s departure, the group carried on and continued recording with vocalist Johnny Sollinger (who sadly passed away in 2021), juggling vocalists following Sollinger’s departure. The band has had an unexpected blessing with the arrival of their new frontman, Heat vocalist Erik Gronwall, who hails from Sweden! The band’s first album with Gronwall, THE GANG’S ALL HERE, will be released in October. Gronwall’s first gigs with the band were opening for Scorpions at Planet Hollywood here in Vegas during Scorpions SIN CITY NIGHTS residency. The band’s lineup retains classic guitarists Scotti Hill and Dave “Snake” Sabo, in addition to classic bassist Rachel Bolan. Rob Hammersmith, with the band since 2010, remains behind the drum stool.
Having seen Skid Row twice during their Vegas residency and getting to expiring their fantastic new vocalist doing what he does best, I was dying to see this show and watch the Skids cut loose with a different setlist, allowing young Mr. Gronwall the opportunity to show off his chops on a selection of other classic Skid Row tunes. When it was time for the gig, the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” began playing over the speakers, with the band taking the stage to the title cut of 1991’s sophomore album, SLAVE TO THE GRIND, just as they had for the Vegas residency.
Sadly, that wasn’t where the similarities stopped.
The biggest disappointment of this evening was Skid Row’s setlist, which was EXACTLY THE SAME as the one they played during the Vegas residency, plus one track added following the opening song, “The Threat” from the second album. The rest of the set was, again, literally a clone of the songs they played opening for Scorpions a few months back. Even in the same order and everything. I understand that songs like “18 and Life,” “Youth Gone Wild,” “I Remember You,” and the title cut from “Slave to the Grind” need to be a part of every Skid Row set. But it’s criminal not to hear songs like “Wasted Time,” “Here I Am,” “Sweet Little Sister,” “Quicksand Jesus,” “Can’t Stand the Heartache,” and my personal favorite, “Makin’ a Mess.” At least half of the songs in the set could easily have been swapped out for the ones I mentioned. Even some of the band’s cover songs would’ve been a nice addition, including the Sex Pistols classic “Holidays in the Sun.” And what about tracks from the criminally underrated third album. SUBHUMAN RACE? However, I will give the band credit for being the only one to incorporate “new” music into their set; we heard the title cut to the forthcoming THE GANG’S ALL HERE album, which will be Gronwall’s first with the band.
But don’t let this deter you from seeing the band live. Their stage show is fantastic, with Gronwall easily their best frontman since Sebastian Bach (ironically, Bach, who is now a Vegas resident, was playing a free show on Fremont Street at the same time this Skid Row gig was going on!) Hill and Sabo still deliver their twin guitar attack. Rachel Bolan is as bad-ass as he’s ever been. And Rob Hammersmith still pounds away at the skins with the best of the best. I’ll always support Skid Row, and I’ll definitely be first in line to get my CD copy of THE GANG’S ALL HERE. But if Erik Gronwall is going to become the vocalist this band needs, to keep the classics alive, he needs the opportunity to sing more of them on a live stage than the same old batch we got during the residency days. I have no doubt he’s what this band requires, however, and I’ll be following his career closely. Anyone who doesn’t give this guy a chance is deceiving themselves. He’s everything a frontman should be and more.
Skid Row Gallery.
The overall execution of the show itself wasn’t half bad; this was my first time seeing a gig outdoors at Sunset Station in many years; I believe the last one was Creedence Clearwater Revisited back in 2018. Unlike that show however, this was mostly a standing-room-only affair, though many people were seated in the fake grass and had brought blankets and such. I was on my feet most of the night, and for the most part, could see the stage decently from anywhere. The bands had merch tables set up near the entrance, and I was pleasantly surprised to see Warrant’s merch guy selling patches, of which I purchased several (they were $5 a piece which isn’t half bad!)
The only real problem with this gig was the time of year it was held; in July in Vegas it’s still well over 100 degrees after the sun goes down! If they’d held off and done this event in October it would’ve been a more comfortable experience without the blistering Vegas summer temperatures, but all things considered, the show itself was pretty well executed. There were the inevitable wait times between sets which was to be expected, and it would’ve been nice to have some “mist machines” to keep people cool, but I personally look forward to experiencing shows in the venue again.
This was a great performance from four of the biggest names in classic 80s rock, and the current incarnation of these groups all sound fantastic despite the cries of the naysayers. This is a fantastic tour, and I recommend catching it or the individual bands if you’re a fan. The LIVE TO ROCK Tour lives up to its name, and it was easily one of 2022’s most epic nights of rock and roll in Vegas so far!
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos by Stephy (Hayward) Muzio for ZRockR Magazine – All Rights Reserved