I was quite surprised when this tour was announced as I hadn’t actually realised that the band were still around. Like many, I grew up with the band, the hit singles, political commentary, and powerful live shows. They did a few isolated shows last year-I guess as a test the water exercise before a more structured campaign of shows and new material. The set of UK dates actually marked their 25 year anniversary.
Frontwomen Skin certainly seems to have aged well as the set got quickly out of the starting blocks with “Charlie Big Potato”, dressed in a bizarre ensemble of what appeared to be an ostrich feather/angel wings combination.
Volume levels were at a premium as a broad and very diverse audience were blown away by hit song after hit. Skin has certainly lost none of her vocal clarity and range and as the band delivered popular tunes such as “I Can Dream” (Where she dived into an adoring audience) mosh pits were now breaking out around the sold-out venue. Further band standards such as “Weak” and “Twisted (Everybody Hurts)” were served up to the delight of an adoring crowd. While having such an enigmatic focal/vocal point could usually detract from the band elements this was definitely not true in this case. Individual musicians all played an important part in formulating the bands distinctive sound.
Even when the band got political, especially ahead of performing “Little Baby Swastikkka”, it felt currently very relevant more than just mere posturing.
Although we didn’t have special guest Paul Wellar joining the band on stage (unlike London), nonetheless the band did perform another cover version – AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” in our case.
One thing that did stand out for me personally as a regular gig-goer was the length of the band’s setlist. In the current age where headlining acts tend to be content to just serve up a set length of about an hour only, Skunk Anansie instead delivered a set of some twenty-three songs (including encores), from emotive beautiful ballads to in-your-face brutally powerful and hard-hitting rock songs.
Slipping some new songs in alongside their notable numbers illustrated that they are not a band looking back to their eighties glory years, but instead have a foot set and firmly planted in the present, and fully confirming that they remain of relevance to what is happening in today’s musical climate.
What this live viewing also did was cause me to depart from the venue with a desire to further explore the band’s musical back catalogue which, previously outside of the hit singles, was relatively unknown to me. Despite having previously witnessed the band a couple of times many years ago, I personally feel that they are actually better live in 2019 than they have been before. Rather than a band struggling to hit former musical peaks instead what they do now has far surpassed those.
- Charlie Big Potato
- Because of You
- All in the Name of Pity
- I Can Dream
- You’ll Follow Me Down
- My Ugly Boy
- Twisted (Everyday Hurts)
- Cheap Honesty
- Love Someone Else
- I Believed in You
- God Loves Only You
- Without You
- Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good)
- This Means War
- Intellectualise My Blackness
- Yes, It’s Fucking Political
- Tear the Place Up
- What You Do for Love
- Highway to Hell- (AC/DC cover)
- The Skank Heads (Get Off Me)
- Little Baby Swastikkka
All photos by John Gilleese