Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Skunk Anansie @ Brixton Academy – 26th November 2009

This article originally appeared on the peerless (yet now sadly defunct) It's owners are now Suburban Tarts, who should be visited post-haste...

This is a moment for which I have been waiting for approximately 12 years.
As a thoroughly impressionable 14 year-old I was completely obsessed with Skunk Anansie, with their loud brand of political outrage and Skin’s utterly mesmeric voice. At the time I never got to see them, which was a source of extreme annoyance and irritation. Until now.

Tonight, Skunk Anansie are completely blinding, an angry ball of rage and excitement, from the moment Brixton Academy falls dark and a very loud drum ’n’ bass remix of Yes It’s Fucking Political thuds out of the speakers, the entire audience is hooked. Despite being slightly older than today’s average rock crowd there is a feeling that, for one night only, it is 1994 again, and everyone behaves accordingly, pogoing like idiots and screaming.

The band have lost precisely nothing in the eight years since they split and tonight, on the last show of their European tour, they are clearly enjoying this as much as the crowd. What works so well about the set they’ve chosen tonight (a self-appointed Greatest Hits show) is the way that the four new songs sit alongside the established classics. During these new, less familiar songs, one can stand and just enjoy the awesome power of Skin’s voice, which a failed solo career and a few years off have done nothing to blunt. How she keeps up the level of vocal performance is a complete mystery.

But it’s the long list of classics that everyone has come to see. From their most famous track Weak (during which Skin climbs out and walks halfway across the pit on the audience’s shoulders, all without dropping a note) to the heart-rending passion of Brazen, the classics just keep coming, including an early rendition of my personal favourite, Charity.

It is in the closing stages that the passion of the crowd and the excitement of the band come together and nearly go too far. Finishing their main set with Post Orgasmic Chill’s mighty rip-up The Skank Heads, the crowd leave to some of the loudest cheers I’ve ever heard; more deafening than the music itself if such a thing were possible. Returning to the stage, they play an initially quiet encore of the classic Hedonism and new track Squander. As the cheers reach fever pitch, the band seem unsure about whether they will break curfew by playing another track. True to form, they go ahead anyway and rip into their radio debut Little Baby Swastika, and proceed to demand that the crowd rush the stage. Enormous men appear from the wings and the music is stopped as about ten people obey Skin’s request and make it through the cordon. There is a palpable sense of nervousness as Skin proceeds to defy the bouncers and finish the song, before running off, followed by her newly assembled army. At the front of the crowd, things are getting messy and before long the band appear again. “They told us we’d have to come out and play one more, else there’d be a riot” smiles Skin, clearly pleased that they can still engender such passion. Finally closing with the beautiful Secretly, the band leaves the stage as heroes and the crowd, finally placated by the more emotional closer, head out. There will, I am convinced, never be a better time to see this band.

My fourteen-year-old self now only has bad skin to worry about.

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