Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
It’s a Thursday night and I’m on my way to an early doors at Rock City. It’s another solo event as Waldorf has not been able to make this one due to previous commitments.
To-night the doors are at 6pm so I’ve given myself extra time to get through the rush hour traffic exiting the City and heading for their homes. The heavy congestion expected never materialised and I find myself getting to my usual parking in better than usual time. Ah well I’m here now so I park and make my way to the venue.
A sizeable queue has already started to gather so maybe it was such a bad idea. When the doors open, I get in, easily this time, In-fact my name was on the top of the list, better than not being on it as of late. Inside I head for the bar and get my gear sorted.
First up we have a two-piece called Holocene a great band name meaning the period of time we live in since the last Ice Age, 11,700 years approximately. Headed by Sian Kelly on guitar, her raspy jazz inspired voice is segued with a grungy sounding guitar and heavy handed thraipsing of drums.
Delivering a short set of 7 songs it was over too quickly. Smoke swirled and billowed around her as she opened with ‘Give Me Life, Give Me Love’ a melancholy vocal that belies her dirty guitar sound. Standing next to an old Akai Reel to Reel sat atop a marshal speaker, Sian delivered a striking vocal to ‘Make Believe’ and ‘Fossil’. The drums working over-time in a controlled manner, and a big thankyou to him for holding up his set list so I could snap it.
The set carried on with ‘Garden of Eyes’ and ‘Delicate Way to Die’ before doing a great cover of Duran Duran’s ‘Rio’ sat at the keyboard. She finished her set off with her current single ‘Kiss Me in The Dark’, a dark and moody number that has a Scandinavian symphonic feel to it. This voice sounds promising and destined to be around a lot more in the future. If you see the name give her a go, she has something different on offer.
After the usual quick set change by the Rock City Crew we have the second support of the night, the mighty Gen and the Degenerates. A Liverpool based band fronted by the skin headed Gen! With little stress, the band set up and perform a line test before getting under way.
The band were late getting to the venue as the promised van hire was delayed, the driver eventually picked the van up in Oxford, drive to Liverpool to collect the bands gear then drive to Nottingham, the band therefore missing out on the sound check.
This larger than life front woman put on an outrageously good performance. She was bubbly and fun but hardcore and deliberate. She paraded around in a skimpy, ripped fishnet bra top and a wrap skirt that was open to the thigh. Her shaved head gave her a look reminiscent of a female version of Buster Blood Vessel of Bad Manners fame. And I say that in a positive way. Everything was forgotten when she belted out the opening track.
Sadly, the band is new to me, and I’m ashamed to say I’m still trying to get hold of a setlist for guidance so I’m afraid I cannot give you a blow by blow account. As the lights flooded the set-in greens and blues again aided by the ever-present fog the band delivered. Distorted guitar and dirty bass knitted firmly with a solid beat from the drums.
This was a set to remember, the crowd that had gathered seemed to agree as they cheered vigorously after each song. Gen’s personality is massive, and with a devil may care attitude she writhed on the riser and getting up, popped the girls back under cover with a sly grin to the crowd as they cheered her antics. What a show they delivered. Awesome.
Well worth the money just to see this band in action. They currently have a 5 track EP that has just been released, I dare say that this made up a good proportion of this 30-minute set. The EP tracks are ‘Crying War’, “Adore Me’, ‘Girl God Gun’, ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Burn Your Pedestals’. The track ‘Adore Me’ has made it onto the Planet Rock playlist.
‘Yes, it’s Fucking Political’ screams Skin of Skunk Anansie, as she sets about giving Rock City a new rear end, as she storms on stage in a Maleficent headpiece and a beaming smile, without waiting she is straight into another storming display of what she refers to as ‘Clit-Rock’.
With a darkly lit set, she prowls the stage as lights pulse dimly behind her, with microphone stand dragging on the floor she powers through this cracker of an opener. Cass resplendent in his red top hat is grinning as he watches the crowd’s reaction, Ace is stomping like he’s trying to put out a fire with his feet, as he shreds his fingers on his PRS guitar trying at the same time to keep out of Skins path as he does so. Erika on keys is well out of the way as she and Mark on drums look on as they hammer out the backbone to this great tune.
Jumping on the riser during ‘I Can Dream’ we have a Theremin which Skin skilfully plays, during which, while stroking the instrument she turns to face the crowd and starts to teasingly lick the instruments erect ‘pitch’ antenna, knowing full well what she’s doing she has that mischievous look in her eyes, its then scooped up and played towards the crowd who are bouncing and cheering as Skin gives them what they came for, her maleficent head piece making her character larger than life as she stoops over the pit from on top of the riser that runs the full width of the stage.
‘Because of You’ continues with the onslaught, although, now, Skin has removed the head piece. This song shows a delicate side to Skins excellent voice as she delivers in a controlled manner, bathed in a spot light she stands before the microphone as the song is projected. There’s little else visible as Aces guitars drives the melody along, backed by Cass’s pumping bassline, the song rises and falls as it throbs it’s message out there, much to the delight of the crowd.
‘Twisted(everyday Hurts)’ and ‘Weak’ follow in quick succession, there is some words from Skin in between, but sadly they are lost in the mix, her voice is very soft, possibly a consequence from the band having to cancel a couple of shows in Germany. Tonight, is the first gig since being told to rest. I decide I need to move to get a better viewpoint. I again head behind the soundboard hoping for a better ‘mix’. ‘Weak’ see’s Skin on the acoustic guitar one of several she’ll play tonight.
‘My Ugly Boy’ Has Skin on an electric guitar this time. As she stands behind the microphone, red spots pulse along to the drum timing, each snare crack sees a yellow light strobe. The clanking guitar evident behind the driving beat from Mark and Cass. As the song builds Skin bounces behind the microphone, Keyboard player Erika is stood behind with a tambourine as she sings along. Ace’s heavily effected guitar slips effortlessly along as the melody progresses.
The crowd are clapping along to the beat, Skin encourages this with a smile. ‘Can’t Take You Anywhere’ is up next and is introduced as the new song about people you have known for years but their values have changed over this time. She mentions about her brother no longer speaks to her but at the end of the day, he’s still her brother. Haunting keys start this song, as the guitar joins, in the angst of the tune builds slowly, the bass rumbles on as Skin is parading back and forth along the riser in her black harem pants and white Doc Martins.
With both Skin and Erika are on the riser as we go into ‘Love Someone Else’. With a set bathed in purple light and a thick blanket of fog adding to the effect. The girls sing at each other, Skin has that sort of face that looks innocent one minute and downright evil the next as they banter back and forth. The purple light is strobing fast, mixed in with a beat crunching yellow spot. Skins voice is full of reverb as Cass’s thundering bass has Rock City moving as one.
The concussive snare crashes shatter the silence as Skins voice is all but lost in the bruhaha. ‘I Believe in You’ has a familiar bass rattle as Skin, yet again on the riser draws her finger across her throat. She’s been bouncing around all night; were does she get the energy from? as she is now skipping across the riser. Jumping down from the riser, the lights glow purple as her superb voice cries out. Cass, still wearing the red top hat keeping his dreds under control thrashes out a bass line as a knee trembler of a low tone is unleashed on the crowd as the song concludes.
‘God Loves Only You’ gets a quietly spoken intro about a tee shirt with the words written across it. The person wearing it never understood its sentiment which is that we should respect other people’s religions as much as we respect our own, that just because it’s not what we believe in, it doesn’t make it wrong or bad. This is spoken over a tight cross stick on the snare and a gentle strummed guitar. Suddenly the bass smacks you full on in the face as the song starts properly.
The band are shadows once again as the lights ignite the fog in a yellow hue, Skin is then picked out by crossed spots as she sings out, and then she’s up on the riser for the chorus controlling the crowds arm waving as she does so. The drums build as Ace joins Skin on the riser to finish. ‘Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good)’ follows on quickly.
The crowd cheer in acknowledgement, as Skin, atop the riser mouths the words as the whole of Rock City sing along, she smiles as she joins in with the crowd. Cass in the background is clearly enjoying the moment too.
Skin stands there with a silver telecaster around her neck, without looking she sings “Wake Me Up Before the Dawn” this heralds the start of ‘Without You’. Aces bewitching guitar sounds swirl around the lyric, this track is captivating as Skin shares a heart to the crowd as they have started clapping along. The snare drum is being pulverised during this track, Mark’s teaching it a lesson as Ticker Tape, from the previous club nights, fall from the overhead lighting gantry.
‘This Means War’ is dedicated to the Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, to Syria and all the places globally that are suffering any form of tyranny. This goes down well with the crowd as they shout out their approval. Skin continues by saying “Brexit was led by Johnson and Farage going on about refugees and the need to keep them out of the UK, now Johnson is offering £350 a month for you to have one in your very house”! She finishes by saying F*@k You Boris Johnson. This fast song is full of confusion, off beats and thundering bass.
Skin marches back and forth delivering the orders, the wall of sound is battle field catastrophic as it slams you in the face, hard. This is a crowd favourite and my stand out song of the night with its sheer emotional power that it throws at you. Stunning job and right on point! With-out a pause we go straight into ‘Intellectualise My Blackness’ which sees Cass up on the riser as he slams out a great bass groove, Ace on the other-side of the stage is slamming his guitar neck as he shreds out the growling riff, Skin walks over and puts her white Doc on ACEs thigh as if to push him away. The song finishes with Skin stood their arms outstretched.
Crew wearing pig masks race about the stage as ‘Tear the Place Up’ starts, Skins voice cries out as the guitar, heavily laden with effects growls angrily. The drum beat is busy and tribal in regularity. The heavy kick drum and multiple bass slams have your spleen rattling against your spine, this is further kicked on by Skin beating the large floor tom that the ‘pigs’ have set up for her. The song finishes with drummer Mark standing with his arms outstretched.
‘Charlie Big Potato’ finishes the set, as the song strikes up with flashing lights and a heavy bass line, someone shouts “Yeah it’s a Rave”, as Skins voice sings out, its full of control as it is surrounded by the pulsing beat of bass and drums, a nice cross stick on the snare breaks up the onslaught as the song then regroups and builds. Skin is writhing on stage, hands over head, before grabbing the mic and jumping back on the riser as the heavy industrial growl grinds out. With a scream Skin has left the stage, the band quickly follow leaving the crew to sort the kit.
A bass drone rumbles on marking their departure. Security ,hand out cups of water to the front of the crowd, and then the clapping, whistling and cheering starts, when nothing happens the foot stomping commences, the floor is moving to this combined effort. The band eventually return to huge cheers. Skin has put on a tee shirt for the end of the show.
‘Piggy’ starts the Encore off. It seems that everything has been turned up as Skins voice is lost at times, especially when the hard-hitting guitar riff cuts in. Skin, once again on the riser thanks the crowd as she sings about “Poppa’s going to buy us a brand-new piggy”. The tribal beat on the drums is cemented firmly with the bass as the distorted guitar of Ace smashes all over the top of it.
Skin announces that its supposed to be their 25th anniversary, but that was 3yrs ago. They wanted to do something different with the next song. They went back to the original master tapes from 1995 and re thought how they could play this song live. The original includes a 50 Piece orchestra, not something you take on tour just for the one song. The song was reworked and recorded to make it playable. Skins says “so what the f*@k” and the band seamlessly walk into ‘Brazen(Weep)’.
Ace’s guitar has a soft acoustic effect to it as Skin sings the song that doesn’t get played. She says tonight is the first time it’s been heard live. The crowd sing back to Skin, hands are outstretched in the air as they do so. Red lighting floods the stage as once again Skin visits the riser, this has a gentle up light making her skin glow before the lights change and she’s in shadow once again. Her head voice is shown in this as she screams and cries out during it, her control is sublime.
So now we get the build-up to Highway to Hell, played with a heavy, distorted growl, Aces guitar grinds away as Skin introduces the band to the crowd. Intros done, Ace is given the command to start proper which he misses so we get a false start, as you can imagine Skin shares the loves, asking the crowd should she sing it, teasing the crowd repeatedly.
The band rock out as Skin joins in, instantly the crowd are on their toes singing along, Cass’s thumbed bass is thunderous. The Horns are there as Skins asks “you want one more” and then 1-2-3-4 and we’re into ‘Little Baby Swastikka’ lights flash around the stage as this belter of a song is met with renewed exuberant energy from all.
She stands centre stage and brings the band down. Asking for a gap in the crowd, she crouches as she directs. Then its full on again as the mosh pit is built and occupied with those with the energy. The smoke machine is working over-time as ‘Skankheads’ finishes the night off.
With a stage smothered in fog lit by red lights and strobes flashing across the stage. Erika has now joined Skin as they again banter back and forth. A ground shaking bass rumble assaults your bladder as the controlled mayhem kicks off again, building in to an almighty orgasmical finish to the night.
Boom! happy anniversary to you! What a night. With ears ringing I leave the venue, comparing in my mind the 2019 show to to-nights. Ok its 25 years and, possibly due to to-nights early Curfew, Rock City only got 20 or was it 21? but no one feels cheated. That was a jubilant night of Skunk Anansie’s favourite songs, all of them bangers and delivered like they were being played for the first time. A stunning night with a huge feel good factor. If you have a spare night and can get to a show, then please do so it’s a great of celebration, Skunk is a master at delivering a great show.
Here’s to the next 25!