It’s a miserably wet evening here in B-Town, but this sold out gig promises to liven things up. Skunk Anansie have got a greatest hits album out in November that also contains three new songs and have got back together after splitting up in 2001 (having played their first gigs in 1994). They sold something like four million records worldwide and did it the old fashioned way by tourng every night and playing every gig they could get. It’s what burnt them out in the end and, as they said in an interview, when it stopped being fun they called it a day.
In the time that they’ve been away, the various members have kept busy. Skin (or Deborah Dyer to her mum) the enigmatic and feisty lead singer has sung on numerous songs, released two solo albums and also DJs at various venues. Ace (the lead guitarist) and drummer Mark Richardson have worked with other bands as well as being tutors at BIMM (Brighton Institute of Modern Music).
A huge cheer greets the band as they take to the stage and the band dive straight into “Selling Jesus” my favourite track of theirs and an early single. The monster riff has everyone moshing and the intensity never stops from that point on. I saw them a couple of times when they first started out so it’s been a while since I’ve seen them live, but I remember Skin being very chatty with the crowd from the beginning to the end. It’s different this time though, and they play something like six or seven songs back to back before she says anything. They also left virtually no gaps between songs, starting a new one within seconds of finishing the last. I like when bands play a set like that, I’ve seen The Buzzcocks and MC5 do a similar thing in the past and it keeps the momentum of a show going.
Skin is dressed in a long, shiny, silvery dress and something that resembles a short jacket made up of those shiny baubles that you decorate a Christmas tree with. Shy and retiring she ain’t, and when she finally say hello she’s as chatty as she’s ever been and says how great it is to be playing these songs again. I’ve always wondered at the difference between her speaking voice (which is so whispery and almost schoolgirl-like you wonder if she’s putting it on) and her singing voice which has a great range going from subtlety to full on POWER in the space of a few bars. Hers and Lisa Kekaula of The BellRays are two of my favourite female singing voices to have emerged during the nineties (yeah, I know Lisa has been around for 20-something years).
The classic Skunk Anansie songs like “Charity”, “Weak” and “Hedonism” evoke loud singalongs, the women here tonight being particularly vocal. By now Skin is talking to the crowd after every song and generally being the great frontwoman that she is. I’d forgotten how many great songs they had, the drum ‘n’ bass intro to “Charlie Big Potato” showing the range of influences that went into the band’s sound. The ragga / d ‘n’ b influence coupled with the heavy guitar riffs remind me of that other great band Dub War who morphed into Skindred and are playing here next month.
Just before they leave the stage, Skin mentions that there are various items on the merchandise stall that go towards a charity called “the medical foundation for the care of torture victims”. They then encore with a rowdy version of their first single “Little baby swatstikka”, written years ago when Skin noticed all the little Nazi symbols written on various walls and posters in and around Brixton where she’s from. I don’t know if they’re splitting up again after this round of dates, but it was good to see Skunk Anansie back in action and rocking as hard as ever.
Just ‘cos I love this track here’s “Selling Jesus”. Let us rock… 🙂