What: Skunk Anansie
Where: Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
When: 5th October
The term “much anticipated” is over used in relation to describing a tour these days, however this one tonight had an nine year gap and a band split behind it to justify its Moniker.
During the late 90s Skunk Anansie had 7 top 20 hits with classics such as “Charity”, “Hedonism” and the oddly named “Charlie Big Potato”. The singles that did best were usually highlighting the softer edge to the band. This probably resulted in a few surprises to the album buying public when they first heard “Selling Jesus” and “Yes it’s fucking political” as opening tracks on the first two albums. Skunk Anansie are the iceberg of bands and what’s hiding can either leave you in awe or crush you beneath.
Tonight was the first warm up gig for the recently reformed bands upcoming European tour. It had a lot to live up to as Skunk Anansie in their prime were voted Kerrang’s Best British Live Act in 1996 and nominated for Best Live Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 1997. Portsmouth’s Wedgewood rooms are one of those intimate (small, capacity <400) and basic (barren) venues that are the mainstay of “local” bands. Having said that, it’s also the place to catch a band on the way up or an established band in a rare setting that makes you feel privileged to have been one of the few.
With so much riding on this gig I was a little concerned that it would all be so much of a let down, I shouldn’t have worried. From the moment the four piece band took to the stage to the moment they left I was drawn in, lifted up and left satisfied. Good job I don’t smoke or I most certainly would have rested my head on the pillow and had a “post orgasmic chill” to steal a quote from the final name of their three original albums.
Mind you there was no way you could rest during the set as the volume was turned up to eleven and the ceiling tiles were falling down as the solid bass, guitar and drums rattled any loose fillings.
To hear the three musicians tonight you’d have thought that they had already been on a mammoth tour and not just setting out on one. They were very tight and certainly provided a great soundscape for the lead singer’s voice and stage presence to be showcased. The singer in question is known as Skin and she epitomises the band in many ways. She’s a very striking bald black woman with a seemingly disproportionate mouth. At first she comes across as scary, however soon you feel and see the passion and warmth that obviously lies beneath.
She jumps about commanding the stage and from the get go she’s pulling the audience into the experience. Her smile is infectious and her vocal in both range and quality is exceptional. With the underlying music at almost ear splitting levels it would be so easy for any vocal quality to be lost by shouting rather than singing, however throughout she is note perfect. The lyrics behind Skunk Anansie’s songs are always heartfelt and you can feel the passion ooze out in her delivery. From the in your face “Little Baby Swastika” to the heartbreaking “Weak” Skin delivers ever word as if you’d just opened the door to her heart and were confronted by the raw emotion hiding there.
The good news for Skunk Anansie fans is that the band are not only releasing a greatest hits CD but there are also new tracks on it too. Those tracks don’t look to be a one off either as a new track (with lyrics written this afternoon) “I don’t want to kill you” was given airing tonight. This track sounded like it still needed work, unlike one of the other new tracks called “Squander” which I feel could easily stand alongside “Charity” and “Weak” as tracks you’ll want set on repeat.