For their last European tour date of this year, Skunk Anansie chose to do a homecoming gig at the mighty Brixton Academy. The gig had sold out early, leaving unsuccessful fans desperately trying to find tickets for what promised to be a cracking gig.
Those who were able to get tickets were not disappointed, except perhaps by the support band, Arrows Of Love. Unfortunately they failed to engage with, and win over, the majority of the audience. They suffered badly from technical and sound issues, and this was not helped by the fact that you could really only see the outlines of the band members in the haze of dry ice and poor lighting. Most of the audience continued to chat (loudly, to overcome the wall of noise emanating from the stage) and ignore the band, and the band eventually slinked off stage.
Over an hour later, it was a completely different story. Kicking off with The Skank Heads, the band burst onto the stage to projected footage of a car racing through traffic, with their “fearless leader”, Skin, appearing in a black, feathery looking outfit resembling the image on the front of their new album, Black Traffic. From the moment they started, the audience was in the palm of their hand. A couple of tracks later Skin ditched the feathery effort, and bounced back onto the stage in sparkly hotpants, proving that she is one of the only people who can pull off this look whilst still remaining the epitome of a rock chick. She then joked, “Some of our songs are a tiny, teeny, tiny bit political…”, raising laughter and cheers from the eager crowd.
The band played effortlessly, with drummer, Mark Richardson, providing a solid, relentless backbone for bassist, Cass, and guitarist, Ace, to power their way through a really tight set. After I Will Break You, I Believed In You and God Loves Only You, and bringing it down a notch, the band played their new single, I Hope You Get To Meet Your Hero, before Skin whipped the crowd up into a frenzy with Twisted (Everyday Hurts), marking the start of a number of surfing voyages over the heads of the lively audience. A few tracks later Skin cheekily told the frazzled security guards to give up as she urged all of the audience on the balcony to their feet, and launched herself into the crowd in the stalls, only to be lifted up above their heads so that she looked like she was on a rather unsteady podium, to sing Weak with absolutely flawless vocals.
After returning to the stage for Hedonism, Skin then introduced another singer (“Erika”), and the two of them sang Our Summer Kills The Sun to a projected backdrop of speedily growing flowers, after which Skin stated that she was coming back to the audience for some more surfing and teased the audience about grabbing her backside during her previous escapades. Alternating between crowd surfing and throwing herself around the stage (all, I hasten to add, whilst delivering perfect vocals) she and the band sliced their way through the following few tracks, including I Can Dream, Spit You Out and Because Of You, before Skin jokingly chastised the audience, during Sad, Sad, Sad, that there was way too much camera phone action, again raising cheers from the crowd. The band’s final song of the set was the mighty Charlie Big Potato, which was enthusiastically received by the audience, and was delivered uncompromisingly by the band, to bring the set to a shuddering climax with much clapping and cheering from the crowd.
Coming back onstage for the encore, the band delivered Tear The Place Up and the downbeat Secretly before Skin introduced the band and urged drummer Mark to take his t-shirt off. This revealed “scientific s**t” (as Skin put it) by way of a contraption resembling an heart ECG to monitor how hard he was working (which, given the heroic performance that he and the other band members were providing, must have been sending the device into a frenzy). After thanking the crowd, Skin once again threw herself into the stalls for the final song of the night, Little Baby Swastikkka, making it all the way from the stage to the sound desk. After standing on top of the desk and posing for photos, she returned to the stage to finish the song, and the band left the stage to deafening whooping and clapping.
The whole gig was spectacular and memorable due to the tightness of the band, the flawless vocals of Skin, and the band’s ability to identify with the audience and get them involved. It helps, of course, that their back catalogue is brimming with energetic, solid tracks. They really are a must-see act.