25 May | O2 Academy
Photos: Phil Watson
For those shuffled up into the balcony or stairs of the O2 worrying that the sound will be affected; this evenings gig was so mercilessly loud you could have been in the toilet and still heard every note.
With the occasional gust of dry ice we shifted to and fro in one sweaty mass like an Underground train in rush hour as Skunk Anansie showed us what grandiose rock openings are meant to look like. Among all the thudding, distortion and grinding bass lines, Skin appeared in a dazzling black and pink chequered jacket and trousers doing what looked like a Charlie Chaplin walk for a moment. Her voice was immediately evident as one of the only sounds able to match the rampaging contribution from her band.
She very soon took her wireless mic and sat on the shoulders of the crowd before dropping onto her back, crowd surfing and singing her way to the sound desk. As they went into ‘Intellectualise My Blackness’ it was played with all the ferocity of a new song. It has to be said that this, as well as several other tracks, chimed resonantly with a crowd seemingly very politically hungry and indignant.
In some ways the tracks oozing with defiant protest are much more relevant and well received now than back in the mid 90’s. As they ploughed into the set, Skin’s screaming gave way to soulful and heart rendering emotive melodies sandwiched with concussive bursts of rhythm and crunching riffs as the room trembled from the vibrations.
It was hot, it was busy so when we were offered “something a little mellow” in the form of ‘Death to the Lovers’;a welcome respite as well as a gentle and mesmerising song. I was reminded just before of how sweet and understated Skin’s spoken voice can sound at times in contrast to her screams and spectacularly sustained crescendos.
The bouncing of the crowd truly turned into dancing as the opening bass line of ‘Twisted (everyday hurts)’ began; followed shortly after by ‘Weak’ which triumphantly stampeded with a loud chorus of voices. They brought what felt like the first half to a close with the new song ‘Victim’ (only played in England once before). It started with what felt like a pulsing heartbeat in the form of a loop from the keyboard as the top line was made up a persistent and slightly sinister collection of high notes before diving into a caldron of slashing chords before suddenly ending as we were plunged into darkness
In addressing the tragedy in Manchester this week we were invited to dispel a minute of silence and instead, indulge in a 10 second frenzy of madness to celebrate the freedoms we are determined not to lose. The drums manically sounded, the lights flickered and we all frantically rebounded off each other. Suitably ‘yes it’s fucking political’ got the same enthusiastic singing as ‘Weak’ and ‘Little Baby Swastikkka’ saw Skin wander into the crowed with a gentle “shhhhh shhhh shhhh” as she got everyone to crouch down in preparation for the last chorus leaping about alongside them as the track came to an end.
The set prompted an encore and then a second encore. The last two songs chosen summed up the tone of the evening with the Nightmarish and violent sounding ‘Charlie Big Potato’ followed by an acoustic version of the beautiful and overtly upsetting ‘You’ll Follow Me Down’; displaying how the band master the combination of gentle touches with storming anthems of cathartic energy and captivating narrative with empathic, inspiring reflection.
Check out ‘You’ll Follow Me Down’ below.