Briefly famous in the early 90’s with two massive rock singles “Everything About You” and the Harry Chaplin cover “Cats In The Cradle“, California-based forgotten grungers Ugly Kid Joe reformed in 2010 and have since undergone a mini-revival.
Bringing their UK tour to Bournemouth’s ever burgeoning live music scene, Tuesday 22nd September saw them play Sound Circus, one of Bournemouth’s best clubs with new record “Uglier Than They Used To Be” in tow. The first support band was Richards/Crane, which is an acoustic collaboration between the Ugly Kid Joe singer Whitfield Crane and original Godsmack guitarist Lee Richards, followed by Australian hard-rock band Hail Mary.
With the venue starting to fill up quite nicely with fans who ranged between their mid 20s to mid 40s, Richards/Crane took to the stage, alongside live collaborator and lead guitarist Tim McMillan. Their particular brand of acoustic music is very influenced by Alice In Chains with some really impressive harmonies and excellent intricate lead play. One particular highlight was the track “Left Behind”, which has a pretty strong Scott Weiland/Velvet Revolver vibe to it. At some points they included 3 part harmonies which added an extra dimension and made the sound fuller.
Next up was Hail Mary, who despite being plagued a little bit by vocals being quite low in the mix, their Black Stone Cherry/Alter Bridge style hard rock went down very well with the crowd. New single “My Song” was a definite highlight, along with the Alice In Chains style off-beat riff-fest of “Navigate the Sunrise (In The Blackhole).” Their big riffs, powerful choruses and excellent guitar work throughout proved a big hit and this band are sure to gain more fans throughout the tour. We also chatted at length and even stuck around for a drink with Jon Snow look-alike guitarist Cush, during which he revealed it was their first ever UK tour and that they’re having a blast hanging out with the other bands, whom they admired.
Finally, the headliners Ugly Kid Joe appeared to rapturous applause. Having not been in the UK since 2012, they wasted no time in getting straight to it, breaking into “Neighbor” – the first song on their first album – to an eager and explosive crowd. The sound was on point throughout and the live vocals still up to scratch. The third song, “Can’t You See Them?”, really got the room jumping, with an old-school Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe.
Other highlights included the Faith No More-esque “Milkman’s Son”, the very heavy “God Damn Devil” – which originally featured Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford – and the Alter Bridge-esque “No One Survives”, with its quiet foreboding verses and heavy choruses coming across much more powerfully live than on record. Their major hit, “Cats in the Cradle”, inspired one of the biggest sing-alongs of the evening. Although, so excellent was the crowd participation and atmosphere throughout the evening that you would never know that the band spent 15 years away from the scene. Rather than the clichéd off-stage wandering before the encore, Ugly Kid Joe froze onstage until satisfied by our chants, commanding the respect that this gig very much deserved.
In a change from the official setlist, the ‘encore’ was rap-rock track “VIP” from their second album “Menace to Sobriety” and an incredibly enthusiastically received performance of their greatest hit “Everything About You”, closing the night on a triumphant note.
We were also lucky enough to be approached for a casual chat by bassist Cordell Crockett (who at the time, was not aware we were there to review the gig). A very down to earth guy, he admitted that although it can get old playing the same old songs, he is happy to do so. “Those are the songs that made me, so if that’s what people want to hear…” He also mentioned his side project, alternative rock band Hear Kitty Kitty and how great it is to meet adults who were listening to their records during childhood.
Ugly Kid Joe set a golden example as to why we should never just write off a band because they’ve been AWOL from the music scene for some time. What started as a night where we had to drag ourselves out of our flat feeling tired and unwell ended up being a night we won’t forget for some time.