Live Review: Myke Gray's Skin - KK's Steel Mill, Wolverhampton
8th August 2023
Words & Photos: Scott Clarke
It was a warm, muggy night in Wolverhampton, as I arrived at the venue for pre gig shenanigans and setups, there was already a modest queue of faithful fans waiting outside at the door patiently, sporting their SKIN t-shirts. Oddly enough as I entered the venue with security guidance it was Myke Gray himself that opened the door and allowed for an impromptu introduction and chat as we toured the halls of the venue which served as a great “behind the scenes” look at the man behind the legend of SKIN and Jagged Edge and showed himself to be a gentleman, kind and well spoken, a truly humble guy.
Leaving the bands to prepare as the doors opened for the crowds and with a trusty cup of tea in hand, I made my way to the pit and awaited the first act of the night, Departed.
Stepping back into the limelight and reforging after a short hiatus with Charlie Smith on Bass, Matt Chalk on Drums, Ben Brookland Bennett on Guitar and front man Mark Pascall providing the vocals the Devon based 4 piece put on quite an opening show that set the energy levels for the rest of the night.
Opening up with Superstitious taken from their debut EP, the highly catchy hard rock track showcased a lot of what the band had in store for the coming hour with Mark’s clean, powerful vocals overlaying high energy rhythm and intricate solos.
Next up, ‘All the Way’, co written by Pascall and Brookland for the 2019 EP Tides, another foot tapper that lead into ‘Don’t Follow Me’ a step back in time to 2016 and then back to the Tides EP for ‘Soul Shaker’. After the first 4 songs the band exhibited styles ranging from classic rock with southern rock influences and a little touch of blues, dare I say that in parts they even remind me a little of Alter Bridge. It was an impressive backward and forward mixing up the bands tracks from their past.
Next Mark announced to the crowd that they should know the next one as the band launched into a cover of the Queen classic, Tie Your Mother Down which went down a storm with the crowd happily singing along, everyone loves a bit of Queen.
The second half of their set was more stable and consisted of tracks from the 2016 release, including Dreaming, Are You Ready, Pretty Little Thing (which they paused before the last chorus and got the crowd involved with cheering before kicking back in to the finish the track) and capping their time off with Steal Your Crown.
There was nothing ‘revolutionary’ or genre defining, but what they did, they did very well, the musicianship and the quality of their tracks and stage presence were all top drawer and fans of the classic/ hard rock genre would lap them up as this crowd did. They are a really high energy group who move well across the stage from the beginning and are smiling all the time, clearly enjoying themselves. They engaged the crowd regularly and videoed the show from a mobile phone on a tripod, even panning across the crowd at one point. They are certainly a band to keep an eye on as their style is very marketable and broad reaching, if they keep up the appearances they have the talent to go very far and I for one hope to hear much more of them as I really enjoyed the set.
After a break to change the set over, the music coming through the speakers changed from any number of classic rock tracks to Ol’ Blue Eyes himself singing “I’ve got you under my skin”, the crowd knew what this meant and as the cheers increased, the band made their way on to the stage one by one. It was time for Myke Gray.
Opening the show with ‘Money’, the almost 30 year old SKIN track immediately got the crowd jumping and cheering and reminiscing on a career that should be much more highly regarded in the rock world. Leading directly into Spit on You, the first thing that immediately came to mind was the replacement for Nev Macdonald’s vocals. Dan Byrne, who will be coming back to KK’s Steel Mill later this same month, is an unassuming character by appearance. Not the usual threatening/ macho appearance usually adopted by rockstars front men, but as soon as he began to sing he filled the venue, his voice is tremendous and silky yet easily able to reach the high notes and belt out a good shout when it calls for it, it’s no wonder Myke took him on for vocal duty on this short 3 leg tour.
The evening was a step back in time covering songs Myke had written entirely for SKIN covering a few decades worth of work that still stands the test of time. From Skin back in ‘94 up to Breaking the Silence in 2010, the 19 track, hour and a half session provided for those in attendance was nothing short of spectacular from beginning to end.
There were a few breaks to interact with the crowd and a few songs melded together, Money took us straight into Spit on You before we took a turn towards 2010 in Born to Rock & Roll. A full range and coverage of the albums across the years bought the show to a grand opening before we stepped back to the early years for House of Love and Raised on Radio.
Myke is clearly the main attraction but he never over does his part, or tries to take centre stage, he steps forward during guitar solos and puts on a blistering show with hands moving so fast I had to increase my shutter speed above what I usually shoot but the rest of the time he is comfortable stepping back and just being part of the band, instead this is very much a group that is the sum of its parts all of whom are very accomplished in their own right.
Stronger, another track from Breaking The Silence gives way to Which are the Tears and Soul, another varied mix covering 3 albums worth of material. There is plenty on offer for the adoring fans who are eagerly awaiting the next song and the next as classic after classic booms though the speaker system. I did notice a few feedback issues at times, however even so it never detracted and the band never missed a step. A very professional and well oiled machine that deserve more recognition.
Back to back we go as Love like Suicide leads into Monkey. “Are you ready to sing with us!” shouts Dan as Look But Don’t Touch from the inaugural album goes down a treat, the crowd with their arms up in the air clapping along chanting Baby Baby Baby. The crowd are bopping heads, holding their arms aloft and singing along with every song, the passion from the dedicated amongst us is evident and blissfully on show. Colourblind melds straight into Take Me Down To The River for another double, the rate that the songs are coming is relentless all evening and something that never seems to fade is the energy. Playing songs is one thing but the performance on stage at the same time is another. The band have a lot of energy amongst them especially Myke and Colin who's energetic performances and grimaces show the effort they are putting into giving the fans what they came to see. Their stage presence is a far cry from their natural personas as they are genuinely calm, gracious and just down right nice people off the stage.
“Thank you for coming down and supporting SKIN” interjects Dan, appreciative of the way the crowd has been so receptive of the band before launching into “Don't give up on life”. There’s a little bit of a mistake by the drummer, (this is live music after all anything can happen it was just ironic that the singer had just mentioned about the crowd hearing the songs as they were intended) a good laugh and a reset and then kicked the song off again before it flows into Tower of Strength, towards the closing of the song the band go quiet and all that could be heard through the venue was the sound of the crowd filling in “You’re all that I want, You’re all that I need…” before SKIN took over duty once again to close the number out.
As they announced there was 1 last song there was an audible groan from the attentive crowd that really didn't want this set to come to a close. I think if the band could've played all night then the crowd would've obliged with their cheers, respect and energy throughout.
Shine your light was the last song on offer. Search/ spot lights were a feature all around the arena during the song, a nice touch and I must say that a mention must go to the lighting and audio techs of KK’s once again for their impeccable performance.
Throughout the night, Myke Gray dancing and swirling around the stage like a whirlwind whilst playing the way he does and what he does like it’s second nature is something to behold and goes to show how talented this man is, he makes his playing look effortless and his energy goes into his on stage performance which makes for a great spectacle
The band depart the stage and the crowd chants and claps knowing there will be an inevitable encore, there's always an encore right? Myke doesn't disappoint and comes out first to address the crowd and thank a few people, he acknowledges that his name is up there but there are a bunch of people that help and goes on to individually introduce the band.
“The Viking Warlord” Colin Parkinson - Bass
Dan Byrne - Vocals
Glenn Quinn - Guitar
Neil Ogden - Drums
Not just in a song like many bands do but a thought out and very deliberate discussion of each member. A respectful touch from a genuinely humble guy, “You keep me going, thank you very much” Myke’s heartfelt thank you to his long time fans, before we launch back into more music beginning with a change of pace. The night has been energetic from the get go but Wings Of an Angel a power ballad with clean guitar is the first encore song. A change of pace for sure and it expresses the diversity of this band after all that hard rock and high energy to slow it down, at the time I remember thinking this could’ve been my favourite track of the night.
How Lucky You Are followed and the evening was closed by Perfect Day from the 96 album Lucky. But that wasn’t quite the end as the last song went straight into a cover of Unbelievable by EMF which was unbelievably even higher octane than the original albeit cut down to a few renditions of the chorus.
As the show closed, I’m sure that had the crowd not already been on their feet then they would’ve given a much deserved standing ovation for a spectacular evening of rock entertainment. Myke was the last off the stage, spending as much time as he could handing out guitar picks, set lists and shaking hands. However both bands came out at the end to their respective merch desks for a meet and greet with the fans where they had photos/ selfies and signed cd’s and photos while spending as much time with each fan chatting away as they desired, I’m not sure if Myke’s hand was aching more at the end of the night from playing or signing but they all enjoyed every minute of it, as did those in attendance.