Concert Review

Skunk Anansie Take Blood and Guts to Glasgow

Brit Rockers Skunk Anansie played their penultimate gig of the “UK 25Live@25” Tour in O2 Academy Glasgow

The 25Live@25 Tour had been re-scheduled twice by the time it finally launched end of March at the band’s home gig in Brixton Academy. Glasgow was the penultimate date of the UK tour so Skunk Anansie were already in full flow for the packed crowd. Apart from being a great band, they are fronted by a true icon, Skin. Not just a stunning performer, but the voice of her generation. Deborah Ann Dyer (aka Skin) was awarded an O.B.E. by the Queen for her services to music and that was the icing on the cake for the forthright, inspirational singer as she recently released her autobiography “It Takes Blood and Guts”. Apart from her imposing stage persona where she commands attention on stage, Skin has a softer side that is reflected in the band’s music. They can go from full on rage, to tenderness in a heartbeat. The alure of their music appeals to the hardest rocker but still has a wider appeal. They could easily fit on any stage from Download to Glastonbury, where they will play the sold out festival later this year.

The tour has given exposure to two fantastic support bands. Gen and the Degenerates and up first Holocene. There were a good number of people in the building for the opening duo. Sian Kelly stood next to a reel to reel tape machine, the likes I’ve not seen since The Cocteau Twins tours. Matt Williams joined her on stage behind the drum kit and the pair performed a good tight seven song set.

The latest E.P. “Kiss Me In The Dark” provided the majority of the songs with the addition of a laid back cover of the Duran Duran classic “Rio”. Skin snuck out from backstage at one point to catch a song but she was wearing a hoody so doubt many folks saw her.  I loved the 50’s guitar vibe in “Fossils” at the beginning and the way the song builds throughout. Sian’s voice carries weight and has real brevity in “Garden of Eyes” and “Delicate Way to Die”. Look forward to hearing more and hope there’s an album on the horizon.

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Gen and the Degenerates also had seven songs to win over a few fans before the main act. Similar to Holocene before them, the band’s discography consist of Single releases so far. Don’t let that deter you though, there’s much to come from this hard edged alt-rock outfit. Another stunningly fronted band, Gen, resplendent in a massive black and white fur coat. Slick edgy self aware lyrics and anthemic choruses make the band an instant hit. “Underwear” is a great opener and there’s no doubt this band are going to do well on the back of this tour, on pure merit. Apart from the obvious visual attraction of a band who love to rock out on stage, there’s great song writing to back it up. Their music is vibrant and punchy and the dirty grunge rock feel is complimented by Gen’s melodic voice as it actually takes the edge of the overall delivery.

I wondered if “Girl God Gun” was a self prophetic song about the singer. “I’m a Girl, I’m a God, I’m a Gun”, “An Apex predator”, it almost describes Gen to a T! Highlight of the night for me as I love a well crafted song that’s backed up by lyrics that grab you, even if they are a bit tongue in cheek. The set ended with “Burn Your Pedestals”, another great song from the recently released E.P. “Only Alive When in Motion”. Gen and the Degenerates have alot to say and their not afraid to do so.

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The lights dimmed and Mark Richardson took the stage with a wave and a huge cheer from the near sold out venue. Mark took his seat behind his kit as Ace strapped on his guitar. Cass breezed on stage with his trademark bass complete with red strings and the flamboyant red top hat covering his dreads. By the time Skin bound onto the stage the crowd were at the top of their voices screaming for the iconic singer to acknowledge them. “Yes It’s Fucking Political” is a reminder of where the band started and still hark back to. The band have always been grounded and never let fame or fortune affect their foundations. Born in Brixton in the early 90’s, the band broke the bland Brit-Pop dominance and brought the rock guitar back to the fore. Never wavering from their intent to educate and inspire their fan base, although they had a hiatus after a break in 2001, the new material releases have demonstrated they are back with a bang. Any regular tour set list from Skunk Anansie would have a greatest hits feel to it and the intent of the 25Live@25 was to celebrate the bands 25 years but of course, it’s now over 28 years since their inception.  That first song from the second album “Stoosh” is as relevant now as it was back then, after all, we are now constantly remined “Everything’s Political”! The audience get to vent along with the band and Skin does what she does best, she leaps and bounds across the stage to the delight of the packed crowd. The hits kept coming and Skin looked amazing in a bright lime green oversized jacket with what resembled a head of black bull horns like some incarnation of a she-devil. “And Here I Stand” screamed Skin, the venomous lyrics hit home even more as she unleashed her explosive incendiary words on to the masses below. A purpose built runway ran across the stage to elevate the singer above the monitors so she was a domineering figure when she leaped up and down though-out the night. The years rolled back for me when “I Can Dream” was up next and I joined in shouting the chorus in full voice along with the rest of the nostalgic onlookers. “Weak”, another track from the ground breaking first album followed and the crowd were bouncing. Glasgow crowds do love to show their appreciation even on a Tuesday night! As Skin strapped on her guitar, she tells the story of “My Ugly Boy” and the meaning behind the song. She goes on to do this at a few opportune times during the night as she spouts about the hypocrisy of religion before “God Loves Only You” and the failings of Brexit and Immigration bemoaning the hypocrisy of the government and the scheme to house those poor casualties of war in Afghanistan, Syria and of course Ukraine. “This Means War” released in early 2020 is a real powerhouse of a song with a Rage Against the Machine hook. Skin is vehement as she belts out her belligerence. In amongst the anger and vitriol, the band gave the audience the opportunity to sing along during “Hedonism” as the entire room raised their arms in adulation. “I hope you’re feeling happy now”, I think they were judging by the volume of the voracious voices.

It wasn’t full on rage the entire set as the new single “Cant’ Take You Anywhere” demonstrated the bands leaning towards synth backed songs, which worked extremely throughout the night as Erika on keyboards and backing vocals did an amazing job. The run up to the end of the main set started with “Intellectualise My Blackness” and “Tear the Place Up”. Skin called for a circle pit and the crowd obeyed without question. She held court over them and directed proceedings from the stage as the maelstrom magnified through-out the penultimate song. “Charlie Big Potato” closed out the main set but it was only a few moments before the band returned to play a well deserved encore. Skin, now stripped back in a black tour t-shirt introduced another the new track “Piggy” from the latest single. The seminal song “Brazen” was met with the biggest cheer of the night as Ace picked the opening chords. Skin explained that the original version was recorded with a 52 piece orchestra but the stripped back live version emanated empathy in the audience. The crowd were badgered back into life with “The Skank Heads” and Skin screamed “Get Off Me” as the moshpit went mental. Skin took the time to introduce the band as they played a muted version AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” before a few full on bars towards the end. “Little Baby Swastika” brought the chaotic crowd back to life as they bounced along to the furious first album set favourite. As the band stood on stage to take the plaudits from the punters, Foo Fighters “Best of You” was played through the PA and for the next four minutes, it was time to party with the band and pay tribute to their fallen friend. No words needed, the message was clear.

Skunk Anansie fly off to Iceland and Europe to continue their tour but will play more dates in the UK later this year.

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Raymond Thomson - Deputy Editor

I am a photographer/musician/engineer living in Scotland. My passion is music and motocross and I share my work on facebook/punk4RT and facebook/madmaxmedia. I do like a bit of throw back to the heydays of the 60’s/70’s/80’s when it comes to taking shots of bands. I grew up on the music papers (NME/Sounds/Melody Maker) and drew influence from Pennie Smith/Jill Furmanovsky/Anton Corbijn/Bob Gruen/Adrian Boot/Charles Peterson.
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