Photos: Lee Ramsey
On one of the hottest days of 2017 so far, I find myself packed into Bristol’s O2 Academy along with an equally excited crowd to see Skunk Anansie.
Skunk Anansie have never shied away from unapologetically addressing political and social commentary and, given the current state of the UK and its social climate, the music of their lasting career seems more relevant than ever.
The band open with ‘And Here I Stand’ (from 1995’s debut Paranoid and Sunburnt), setting the tone for tonight’s set list. With an album of recent material, it would be reasonable to expect the band to play a considerable portion of the set from 2016’s sixth studio album, Anarchytecture, What we are treated to, however, is a generous selection of fan favourites.
Bounding out from the right side of the stage, donning a black baseball cap and a flamboyant two piece shorts suit covered in pink, white and black lettering, vocalist Skin, is rampant and thrills from the off. Skunk Anansie are a band that enjoy the live stage. Bass player Cass wears a permanent grin, guitarist Ace, is in his zone as he cranks out riff after riff, while drummer Mark thunders through the set with ferocity.
A welcome addition to the live band is backing vocalist, keyboard and percussionist, Amy Richardson (who also happens to be the wife of drummer Mark). Throughout the set, she is pitch perfect in adding the unique harmonies from the records and even shares centre stage for a couple of numbers.
As far as rock bands go, Skunk Anansie have a gift for writing credible ballads. It is, in fact, some of these songs that the band are better known for in mainstream music. The set is lightly sprinkled with a few slower songs but, even amidst the angst rock, they never feel out of place.
Skin is iconic not only in her image but her stage presence which is raw, charismatic and endearing, and her natural ability to command a crowd is effortless. She crowd surfs numerous times throughout the evening and never runs low on enthusiasm. During the breakdown of ‘Little Baby Swastika’, she parts the crowd and proceeds down into the middle of the audience, asking everyone to crouch down in anticipation. As the band kick back in, she is right in the middle of the crowd, jumping and singing with her fans. A true rock star.
In a week that has seen concert goers become the latest targets of terrorism, it’s encouraging to see that people have not been deterred from coming to tonight’s show. The band acknowledge and remember the victims by inviting the crowd to participate in “… a minute’s madness”. What follows is a wall of guitars and drums accompanied by the crowd yelling at the top of their lungs. It’s an upbeat and unifying expression of solidarity that goes down well. Throughout the night I hear fans ask each other “when will they play Charlie?” and the band eventually oblige by closing the encore with an explosive rendition of ‘Charlie Big Potato’.
There are few bands that can boast a career that spans more than two decades and one of the reasons for this is their reputation for impressive live shows. Tonight’s performance is an unrivalled display of raw talent that illustrates their success and longevity.