Live Review: Skunk Anansie (Rock City, Nottingham)

Photo: Simon McMurdo

There are plenty of worn out t-shirts in the queue tonight. Ranging from the newer merch to the decade-old tees that some of these guys are wearing – it proves a fitting metaphor for the audience that are here. Plenty of young, excited teenagers standing alongside dedicated fans that have supported the band since they broke onto the scene with ‘Paranoid & Sunburnt’ only a few years shy of twenty years ago. The location couldn’t be any better – Nottingham’s legendary Rock City that Skin will later declare ‘one of the best venues in the country’ sees every act from young chart-toppers to musical royalty. Skunk Anansie sit proudly in the former category – not only because of their enviable success, critical acclaim and huge fanbase but because they refuse complacency. They are a band that have grown form strength to strength, most notably onstage, and after reuniting in 2009, have continued that growth and become one of the most respected bands performing live today.

The Kid Kapichi, a late addition to the bill, manage to impress as they take to the stage with their catchy and punchy rock. Providing vocal duties as well as shredding some instantly hummable riffs, Ben Beetham and Jack Wilson bring the vocal interplay to a stunning climax during ‘Inflated Sense Of Self Importance’ which is easily the most addictive song in their refreshingly accessible set.

Half an hour later, Skunk Anansie began seeping out onto the stage as an adrenaline-inducing intro played and a few visuals peeked through behind Mark Richardson’s drum kit. It wasn’t until the opening riffs of ‘The Skank Heads’ that frontwoman Skin made her appearance – suitably excited and pumped as she bounced around the stage with just as much, if not more, conviction than when the band burst onto the scene in the 90s. As with most gigs in Nottingham, the crowd grew more and more responsive throughout the set with ‘Twisted (Everyday Hurts)’ proving apt as it provides the turning point for the evening with the crowd starting to bounce around just as much as Skin.

The set is as close to perfection as you can get. Yes, I’m sure a few were hoping in vain for an obscure b-side, but these guys know what they’re doing and as crowd-pleasing goes – they delivered beautifully. ‘Wonderlustre’ tracks ‘Over The Love’, ‘God Loves Only You’ and ‘My Ugly Boy’ draw warm responses, as do new cuts ‘This Is Not A Game’ and ‘I Believed In You’ before the mid-tempo segment draws in, containing a massive sing-a-long to ‘Hedonism’. Pre-break up and post-reunion tracks compliment one another perfectly as ‘Tear The Place Up’ gets the crowd just as wild as early single ‘I Can Dream’. A few more spurts of ‘Black Traffic’ tunes flavour the end of the main set – ‘Spit You Out’ and ‘Sad Sad Sad’ deliver the goods whilst the intensity that ‘Charlie Big Potato’ induces places it as a standout of a set anytime Skunk Anansie choose to perform it – a definitive track and a perfect end to the main portion of the show.

In juxtaposition to the endorphin-fuelled Skin, all bass-player Cass has to do to earn a deafening cheer tonight is pop on over to the opposite side of the stage. His laid-back approach is shared by guitarist Ace but the two are undeniably core to this band and the fans recognise them with as many cheers as are thrown at the front woman – even drummer Mark, sitting pretty at the back, gets plenty of attention as Skin introduces him to the adoring masses. Ace’s guitar solo towards the end of the main set gets the crowd impressively rowdy and pumped – it is testament to what a skilled player he is that a mere thirty seconds of his playing produces such a response. For the most part, the three guys simply let their instruments do the squealing for them and there is something overwhelming in the way they conduct the larger-than-life riffs that underline the newer material, as well as the classics.

It’s not that Skin is overcompensating for everything, mind you. She has the voice that has defined a genre and it is as powerful now as it was then. But, what the live circuit really shows you is the true showwoman that we have here. She spends more time in the crowd than any performer I’ve ever seen – sending them into a frenzy of insanity during closer ‘Little Baby Swastikka’ as she gently eases them through the verses only to join them in an explosion of energy for the frantic chorus. It’s during ‘Weak’, however, that the entire room unites – die hard fans and those that may have even attended for that single song – and Skin makes the moment even more spectacular as she stands, held up by the crowd, in one of the most defiant visuals I’ve ever witnessed.

Despite the unforgettable set, it seems that Skunk already had plenty more to offer as Skin admitted ‘this venue is a little low for our light show’ – those videos that crept through once or twice were actually another layer of brilliance to the Black Traffic tour. It just goes to show, however, that Skunk Anansie don’t need anything but their instruments and energy to keep a heaving venue happy and it also proves that when things don’t seem like they can get much better, these guys just keep on giving.

Photo & Words: Simon McMurdo


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