Ugly Kid Joe is one of those bands that doesn’t seem to have much of a stereotypical fanbase, so heading to see them perform America’s Least Wanted in full for the first time ever at Sydney’s Manning Bar on Sunday night made it a little tricky to anticipate what to expect. The first thing that stuck out was the wide range of people in attendance. The Californian-based quintet have managed to pull together an array of fans from all sort of backgrounds and ages, so why should their support acts be any different?
Opening up the night were Victorians Tim McMillan and Rachel Snow. The story-telling, acoustic guitar slinging, violin playing pair were an act incomparable to anything else out there. Despite the lack of musicians on stage, they managed to swing together some well-known songs, combining everything from Celtic rock, folk, Viking metal and jazz in an entirely new and impressive way. I certainly can’t say I was expecting to hear an acoustic Slayer cover as an opening, nor Smashing Pumpkins meets Willy Wonka in the same song, but those things definitely did happen… even if Tim’s stories about playing in front of 5,000 c*nts at Rod Laver Arena may have been a stretch beyond the truth, the stories certainly wrapped up the set in an interesting but neat little package.
Next up was Dallas Frasca, a complete turnaround from the preceding act, although I’d have expected nothing less from an Ugly Kid Joe show. Dallas Frasca came out guns blazing, straight into a heavy-hitting, in-your-face rock show that could have walked straight out of the 80’s. This set was nothing but big noise, a stage presence to challenge some of the biggest names out there, and a ton of crowd interaction to boot. In fact, the siren songstress herself, Dallas found herself getting up close and person with everyone in the pit for an entire song. Needless to say, the room was well and truly warmed up by the time these guys were done.
Ugly Kid Joe are more than welcomed on stage by what is now a packed room full of young and old alike, to celebrate 25 years since the release of America’s Most Wanted, with a massive opening of Neighbor. One thing that immediately caught me off guard from these guys was just how heavy they are live. There were a lot of metal heads in the crown tonight, and it was very quickly clear as to why. A quarter of a Century may have passed, but the passion is still well and truly alive and well. Only stopping ever so briefly throughout the set to announce “We haven’t played this song in 25 fucking years!” front man Whit Crane wasn’t wasting any time, before tearing through Madman without a note out of place.
Taking a brief detour to their second album, Menace to Sobriety, saw the boys power through Jesus Rode a Harley, and C.U.S.T., with so much power that drummer Zac Morris had already broken a cymbal and snare skin just three songs into the set. Getting the crown involved, Crane had the entire room on their feet and clapping along to Panhandlin’ Prince. Come Tomorrow, another song that hasn’t been performed live in 25 years, comes next to slow down the set somewhat.
The set soon makes a huge leap forward with the songs No One Survives and Devils Paradise off their 2012 release, Stairway to Hell, which fit into this throwback-heavy set perfectly. Stepping back to 1992’s America’s Least Wanted, the album we’re all here to celebrate, sees the heavy-hitting So Damn Cool go off with a bang. This track really saw just how heavy Ugly Kid Joe could be, and it was more than welcomed with open arms.
Before their breakthrough hit, Cats in the Cradle came a dedication to some longstanding fans, really showing how humble these guys are, despite their commercial success. Cats in The Cradle had the entire room singing along at the top of their lungs, before heading back to 2012’s I’m Alright for more impressive screams and impressively huge notes. This was followed by the first real pause for the night, to do a quick round of introductions, before jumping headfirst straight back into the music with Milkman’s Son and then a guitar solo from their hardworking guitar tech, Soldier.
Slowing the set down for just a minute was Busy Bee, quickly followed by Same Side and Goddamn Devil, featuring Crane’s more the impressive Rob Halford style screams. With curfew clearly looming, Klaus Eichstadt took centre stage for Mr Recordman, while Whit Crane ran around trying to re shuffle the remaining setlist for the time little time they had left. V.I.P. was dedicated to Ozzy Osbourne for his birthday, before Funky Fresh and the huge ending, Everything About You. Luckily they got through the set before any plugs were pulled, but it was a shame to see things have to be chopped and changed due to a looming curfew. If only the show hadn’t started so late.
The first show of the tour celebrating 25 years of a trademark album in America’s Most Wanted certainly did not disappoint. Even if you only know a couple of singles from these guys, this is a tour you don’t want to miss. It’s heavy, it’s loud, it’s nostalgic and although they’re playing the album in full for the first time ever, you certainly can’t walk in thinking you know what to expect.