LIVE REVIEW: Skunk Anansie @ O2 City Hall, Newcastle (25.04.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Brian Nicholson

A long way from their first show at London’s Splash Club (described by lead vocalist Skin as “a fuckhole”, albeit a “glorious” one), Skunk Anansie‘s career has been a ride. 

Exploding onto the scene in 1994, Skunk Anansie brought a much needed sour metal/rock tang to the multicoloured sweetshop that was the Britpop era, going on to collaborate with Pavarotti, appear on the soundtrack of the film Strange Days, split up, reform, and – with no sign of their appeal abating – play to a staggering 850,000-strong crowd at 2019’s Pol’and’Rock festival. Now celebrating over a quarter of a century in the game, they remain one of the UK’s most successful chart acts, refusing to be pigeonholed, furious and vital as ever.

Bursting out onto a smoke-filled stage in a deliriously tall, borderline-Lovecraftian headdress, Skin had the crowd in the palm of her hand from minute one. Engorged latex tentacles streaming from the top of her head, the Brixton-born iconoclast slipped effortlessly between aggressive and tender, mirroring the nature of their music; one minute inclusive and loving, the next rage-fuelled and shit-kicking.

Stalking the stage alongside Ace on guitar, Cass on bass, Mark Richardson on drums, and tour-pal Erika Footman on keyboards (and hype duties), Skin set the stall for a memorable and surprisingly moving show, visually arresting, sonically stunning, and wielding a theremin during the opening two-piece of And Here I Stand and Yes! It’s Fucking Political.

Relinquishing her headdress, it was only a scant couple of songs (Because of You… and I Can Dream) before an acoustic-tinged rendition of Weak – the final single from 1995 debut album Paranoid & Sunburnt – a festival and fan favourite of such stature that a lesser band would throw out at the end of a show. 

God Loves Only You, the opener for 2010’s Wonderlustre, played as a plea for religious tolerance, while one of their most recognised singles, Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good), from second album Stoosh, landed just north of halfway as an arm-waving singalong, fuelled in these dicey post (ish) Covid times by the still-fresh feeling of being here and hedonistic together.

“Where’s my circle!?” came the cry throughout the night as Skin parted the sea of the crowd like Moses’ funkier sister, carving up space for a series of ever-escalating moshes, not least one for the rallying cry of This Means War. Written just before their 2020 tour, Skin dedicated this song to the people of Ukraine and all the people suffering tyranny in countries across the world. 

Powering through a solid mix of old favourites, deeper cuts and thrilling new music (olive branch to flat Earthers and anti-vaxxers Can’t Take You Anywhere, and Piggy), the set wrapped up with Highway to Hell (yes, really) leading into The Skankheads and Little Baby Swastika. Playing Best Of You in memory of Taylor Hawkins at the end was the icing on the cake. 

Perfectly pitched, overwhelmingly warm and positive, this was a triumphant night for one of the UK’s best-loved bands. Here’s to the next twenty-five years.  

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