Long hair flowing behind him, he stands before masses of intent listeners sharing his gifts, while his father smiles down on him from heaven.
It's not Jesus. It's the reformed hair-metal dude who plays him.
“Those are some big sandals to fill,” laughs Sebastian Bach-better known to some as the wild-tressed former frontman for Skid Row-as he prepares for a national tour of the rock musical, Jesus Christ Superstar.
“Everybody has their own specific idea in their head of who Jesus was,” Bach proposes. Though certain feathered-hair girls in the '80s once bowed to him as a god of glam rock, Bach is struggling with the psychological make-up of Our Father who art on stage.
“I just try to play him as... a man who went through an incredible thing,” he says. “Jesus at that time didn't know he was Jesus.”
The musical, by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, bears its 1970s influence like stigmata, using a rock star parallel to portray the nitty-gritty emotions of Jesus' last days. It makes the original water-walker as much of a “regular guy” as possible. Since Superstar's rockin' style gives it the feel of a concert, Bach really hasn't strayed too far from his original calling.
It isn't Bach's first acting gig. He first starred on Broadway as the tormented doctor and his alter ego in Jekyll and Hyde, a show known for its groupie following. After receiving a prospective call from J&H producers, Bach went to see the show.
“I just held my head in my hands,” he says. “I didn't know if I had the talent and the stamina to pull it off.”
As it turns out, his vocal power and imposing 6-foot-5-inch stage presence served him well in Jeckyll and Hyde. Next, he went deeper into cult territory as Riff in The Rocky Horror Show.
“I never envisioned myself as a Broadway leading man,” Bach explains. “Broadway came to me every single time.” He says he could really sink his teeth into the parts in Dracula or the Phantom of the Opera if they were offered, though he's not actively pursuing a career in theater.
Even now, as Bach takes a week off between the La Mirada previews for JC Superstar and the start of the tour, his mind is on rock 'n' roll. As he chats, he is in his car headed to meet Slash, Duff, Izzy and Matt Sorum of Guns N' Roses for a jam session.
For those scratching their heads, wondering, “Whatever happened to Skid Row, anyway?” the answer is-nothing. Bach left in 1995 to pursue a solo career and the band is still out there, at least according to their website. Interestingly, Bach now finds himself playing Jesus in many of the same venues that hosted Skid Row's Slave to the Grind tour.
“This is the biggest show you've ever seen me in-bigger than any Skid Row tour,” he says. “It's great to return to these venues and present my fans with this.”
While enjoying his incidental acting career, Bach also cranked out an album, cheesily titled Bring 'em Bach Alive, released last year. A forthcoming DVD, Forever Wild, will combine the best of both worlds, featuring concert footage as well as a look at Jekyll and Hyde.
Bach says one of the highlights of working on JC Superstar is co-starring with 58-year-old Carl Anderson, who originated the role of Judas. “I hope I have that much energy when I'm 35!” Bach exclaims. “He is an example that you can sing forever.”
While one might not equate Anderson's age with “forever,” it's the same age at which Bach's father, artist David Bierk, recently passed away. The coincidence isn't lost on the singer.
“It's like I lose one guy and I get this other one. I'm learning a lot from [Anderson]. Judas is my angel,” he says, adding that he dedicates his performance in JC Superstar to his late father.
“[My father] taught me that art is the most beautiful thing you can do with your life. He showed me the talent that I was given by God should be used.” Spirituality was, in fact, a resounding aspect in the rocker's upbringing. As a youth-not-yet-gone-wild, Bach sang in child choirs.
“It's hard for me to believe that everything on this earth is an accident,” he proclaims. “Music and God have always been strongly affiliated for me.”
That spiritual sensibility is what led Bach to dedicate his performance to Bierk. In addition to the life lessons, there is the parallel of Jesus reaching out to his own father for support as he struggled to understand his place in the cosmos.
“At the end [of JC Superstar], I'm on the cross and I'm singing to my father, and you know, emotionally, I don't have to reach too far.”