Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown and photography by Ken Harrison

Summer and festival season must be over as we’re here tonight for the first gig of autumn 2015 – tonight to the Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton to see a sold out gig by Californian surfer rock dudes, with charismatic frontsman Whitfield Crane – welcome  Ugly Kid Joe.

UKJ-9 Ugly Kid Joe had a bank of top ten hits in the day, before totally disappearing for fifteen years, only to re-emerge supporting Alice Cooper – and being stand out for just how bleedin’ good and how much fun they were. This is the second time they’ve returned to Wolves – a stand out performance at the Wulfrun on a dual headline tour with Skid Row, we may be in the smaller and cosier and definitely very warm Slade Rooms – but that don’t make any difference – the fans are are in their droves.

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On support tonight, unfortunately we miss due to commitments and that Rugby World Cup match (go Japan!) come from Richards/Crane – being Whit Crane (aka Ugly Kid Joe) and original Godsmack guitarist Lee Richards. They have a single out – ‘Black & White’, a duet with Alter bridge / Slash  singer Myles Kennedy and an upcoming debut album, ‘World Stands Still’.

Next support Hailmary – West Australian hard rock band have their passports stamped  hit the for their first overseas tour. UKJ personally invited them to tour with them – and lead singer Kevin Curran is well chuffed to have been invited by one of his heroes. Hallmark may be from thousands of miles away – but their fans cover the world with the UK topping their download charts. Renowned as one of Australia’s hardest working independent bands, the band relentless release and touring schedule, combined with their critically acclaimed live performance has solidified them as one of Australia’s best emerging heavy/hard rock acts and touted by many as an Aussie band that has the potential to mix it with the best in the world. Get a chance – check em out.

So – bang on 9.30 – on come UKJ – a intro from the band prior to Crane taking to the mike. Crane has done a Sawn the Sheep – his recognisable lock now all shorn – but no matter – the locks don’t hold the talent and fun of UKJ. Staring off with ‘Neighbor’ immediately the crowd is singing along. The stage at the Slade Rooms is one of the tiniest every – certainly when you have to get three guitarists, full drum kit and amps on stage – giving Crane 2 square centimetres to stand. So the band may not be bouncing as much tonight – but that no where near dulls the performance – hey they are truly up close and personal in this intimate venue.

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UKJ-13 And then with his best Alice Cooper voice we have ‘C.U.S.T.’  – “Everybofdy get your hands in the air” once again the whole place is clapping. And then time to mention – their first album in nineteen years, ‘Uglier Than They Used Ta Be,’ acknowledging the fact that with out us, the fans, there is no  record. “Thank you for helping us out….” – Crane is humble as he takes us into one of the tracks “She’s Already Gone.’ UKJ-16

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‘Devil’s Paradise’ is a deal with the crowd – making a deal with said devil by us erupting into high volumes, a bow during the song, and has in the air shaking, and side to side. He’s a charismatic frontman – regardless of the space limited stage. Then we sing. The massive hit for UKJ, the Harry Chapin cover, still beautiful… “And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, Little boy blue and the man on the moon…” He bows; we cheer; Crane acknowledge the crowd. Claps the crowd. UKJ are truly entraining, we clap, sing and jump to order. A cheer for ‘Menace to Sobriety’ track ‘Milkman’s Son’ – and intro to the band – who are tight and on form – and another devil of a track – ‘Goddamn Devil.’ The crowd starts surfing – the bouncers don’t seem prepared, and an older small female bouncer shoves an older male bouncer to collect several large males who roll over the barrier – poor bloke nearly collapses. Crane shows concern and as each one comes over – he keeps an eye that they are okay.

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It’s getting hotter and hotter in here – ‘So Damn Cool’ and the bouncers attempt to play catch. A break -“ I want a very creative and geolocation all chant from you….” Erm that kinda fails…. “We want more…” is as far as the crowd can get – but we want em back on stage.   Gone for 20 years – Crane continues to be stumped and humbled that we all came back. “It’s a big trick.” he comments – “We are f***** grateful….”

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Two songs or three, he questions the audience. That’ll be three then. ‘V.I.P.’ as Crane draws UKJ on a metal plate at the side of the stage. Now “time to freak us out… go f***** crazy”. Of course we do. Why not? “Everything about yoooooo.” And to the final track of the evening – rip it up – it’s Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades.’

Ugly Kid Joe are far more than just surfer dudes with hits from the nineties. The rock. The band are tight, and loud, Crane’s voice rip-streaking and they remain just great fun. Just go and see em. You will have a blast and come out with a cheeky, smiley, if slightly sweaty broad grin on your face – just like their cartoon character. And we agree with Crane’s ending comments, See you soon dude.

“Thank you for supporting live music – God rest you. Peace.”

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Setlist:
Intro
Neighbor
Jesus Rode A Harley
C.U.S.T.
Panhandlin’ Prince
She’s Already Gone
No One Survives
Devil’s Paradise
Cat’s in the Cradle
I’m Alright
Milkman’s Son
Goddamn Devil
Hell Aint Hard to Find
So Damn Cool
V.I.P.
Everything About You
Ace of Spades

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