THE SKULL - Perform Entire 1990 Trouble Album: Live Report
February 6, 2018, a year ago
One of the great, yet still underrated, voices in metaldom, Eric Wagner, stopped by the minuscule Kung Fu Necktie (home of the $2 canned beer 'Shelf Of Shame') with The Skull, a band that includes fellow Trouble alumnus Ron Holzner, on bass. While Wagner's long ringlet have since grayed, he still commands the stage with vocal prowess. For this tour, the band is performing the '90 Def American released, eponymous Trouble disc, in its entirety.
The singer's "You guys finally won a Super Bowl" introduction failed to get a big (psychotic?) reaction, less than 24 hours after the fact. The postage stamp sized stage (less than 15 feet across and no deeper, doesn't afford any room for movement, although apparently not so inclined. Low budget effects, just two omnipresent red lights, throughout the set. Holzner, in dilapidated, shape black cowboy hat, had to stand sideways, against the wall, not facing the audience. Later, Wagner explained the bassist was not feeling well (curtailing the show by a couple of old Trouble classics) and he played the second half of the show, seated. Kicking right into the album material, in the original running order, "At The End Of My Daze" is an energetic opener, from a band that was/is falsely considered a pedestrian musical beast.
Plenty of cowbell accents in "The Wolf". In fact, listening to it again, realize how much of the album is built around ride cymbal and cowbell drumming. "Psychotic Reaction" gets a groove going, while booming bottom end dominates "A Sinner's Fate". Wagner remains slightly high pitched, audible above the doomy mid-tempo fray. Onstage, it took a little extra time to get the acoustic guitar ready for a brooding, Beatles-esque "The Misery Shows (Act II)", which highlights the lightyear differences to the bludgeoning stoner rock performed by the opening acts. Most of whose members were still drinking/socializing at the back of the bar, paying little mind to what transpired onstage/ That is, until the brief re-introduction of electrified crunch, midway through the song.
Wagner stood almost motionless most of the night, face pushed close to the mic, both hands cupped either side of his vocal conduit. The building intro to "R.I.P." finally reaches crescendo, unleashing a flurry of activity, with its proto-thrash intensity. Producer Rick Rubin must have loved toying with such changes in dynamic, although many (most?) in this audience weren't alive when it was recorded/released. There's also the off kilter, warbling rhythm of follow-up, "Black Shades Of Doom" and another switch of sound. Wicked!
The complete thrash of "E.N.D." is over quickly (2:23 on studio version). Can see the original influence of Barry Stern (Ex-Zeotrope) on the aggressive drum patterns. Wagner claimed that, back in the day that was one Trouble never played live, ever. During the trippy "All Is Forgiven" finale, the singer flashed a peace sign (Does anyone remember that hand gesture?). Given the bassist's being under the weather, they concluded with a track suggested by shouts from the crowd. Apparently, Godzilla stomp introduced "The Tempter" won out. Nice choice Philly!