THE entire hard rock genre is one that can be held up to ridicule at the best of times - a pastiche of big guitar sounds, overblown lyrics, undertones of a misogynistic attitude and, the case of many on the touring or festival circuit, men in their 40s and older playing for the retirement fund.
However, those on the outside will never see that both old and young still get their kicks to hard rock bands that know how to hit the stage, and hit it hard.
In a Distortion Project stormer of a triple-hitting gig on Tuesday, October 29th, Aussie rockers Dead City Ruins, and the US of A's Ugly Kid Joe and Skid Row proved that with an audience ranging in age from 18 to 60 they could still hit the highs of yesterday with aplomb, energy and without a hint of youth now gone mild. Yes, the Youth (loosely applied to a packed Limelight1) still goes wild.
As we caught up with Whit Crane for a pre-show interview (details later on this blog and rockradioni) he implored us to check out Melbourne hard rockers, Dead City Ruins.
This five-piece were already on stage into their second song as a thin-crowd began to grow; however as good bands know, no matter whether playing to 50 or 5,000 you still adopt the same attitude.
Twin Les Paul guitars locked in just right, hard and tight rhythm section, and a vocalist in Jake Wiffen who knows the right balance between banter and getting down to business. A bright future for Dead City Ruins if they can shake the 'another-band from Oz' monicker and earn the just respect for their brand of Stones-infused, take on 80s and 90s hard rock. Laid back and lethal!
Ugly Kid Joe have been on something of a resurgence over the past couple of years; with festival dates, a mature ep in Stairway to Hell; and on the face of it just a band having a real fun time playing their music.
Funked up, fucked up and at times flayingly heavy, Ugly Kid Joe edged it on the night. From VIP through to Everything About You this was a band on top form.
It takes a special type of set of performers to appear both loose and tight; tunes were played with precision and with a relaxed feel amidst the intensity of the music.
While many were just there for standards like Neighbour, Cats in the Cradle and Everything About You, the tracks from Stairway to Hell were exceptional. I'm Alright was a tight fist of riffs and chorus, while the dystopian No One Survives was pure rock writing and performance at its best.
And, with the set lengths curtailed due to a later event at the venue the 'pretend we've been off stage and are on our way back' mock encore routine had comedy value just seeing the band frozen in time for seconds. Pure comedy for the males, but eye candy for the ladies was a drummer only wearing his underpants - style statement, garment choice, or just coping with onstage heat, it just seemed weird...
However, It is clear that with a possible new album due out in 2014 Ugly Kid Joe are still a potent force, still balancing between genre boundaries and still delivering their all on stage.
Skid Row have always been a beloved band in Belfast, despite issues that there may have been with a previous vocalist. Those issues are not even a point in consideration for this - and on this evidence - more potent version of the b and.
As expected the greatest hits were brought out, with all the usual gusto, but the variety in the set's composition at times did tend to lean towards earlier glories.
Having said that, each was given a rapturous round of appreciation, sing-alongs and welcome; with Johnny Solinger noting that it was possibly the first time they had someone crowd surfing to I Remember You.
With United World Rebellion (Chapter One) on release, it was Kings of Demolition which stood out, as taking the basic rock template, flavouring it with punk(ish) lyrics and a metal musical twist.
The inclusion of a cover of The Ramones track, Psycotherapy, with Rachel Bolan on vocal duties was a nice bracketing of the set, with the same band's Blitzkreig Bop Skid Row's intro track.
From there it was a clear race to the end. Skid Row, like Ugly Kid Joe, know how to leave the audience heading home happy. There is no great ingredient X for this: as all great bands know you round up the set with your most popular tracks.
It was the final consummation of the marriage between fans and band as they wrapped up an intense evening of hard rock bountifulness with Monkey Business, Slave To The Grind and Youth Gone Wild.
Unfortunately being an early show - with the venue needing to be cleared for some dance and DJ shit for the less well-endowed in musical taste - the scenesters and glad-handers moved in. At the same time there were a hundreds of fans emerging from Limelight1, happy, smiling and hoping for an early return from these bands.
Hard rock isn't dead, it has not gotten 'mild' and at times young and old still go a little wild. With Dead City Ruins, Skid Row and, probably with the best set of the night, Ugly Kid Joe there is a soundtrack to be cherished and a new legion of fans is growing around the people who support true music.
You can read my interview with Whit Crane of UKJ later this week, and an audio will also appear on www.rockradoni.co.uk shortly.