Despite their huge success, Skunk Anansie were a strange band who never seemed to be taken all that seriously by many music critics. Perhaps a skank-rock band fronted by a bald, black, righteously feminist lesbian was too much of a novelty, or maybe their penchant for churning out as many power ballads as they did face-melting rock pelters softened their cause. To their fans though, this genuine mix of stadium anthems and tender but teeth-baring love songs made an indelible impact.
Rumours of a ten-year reunion had been circulating for months before tickets finally went on sale for tonight’s ultra low-key comeback in the venue that first launched the band in the early ‘90s, and two things were made instantly apparent as Skin, Cass, Ace and Mark bounded onto the stage forty minutes late: firstly, that this writer is now far too old for a full-on mosh pit, especially in a venue the size of his bedroom; and secondly, Skunk Anansie have been greatly missed.
Looking resplendent in a silver sequined catsuit and an oversized black feather boa, Skin appeared to have aged not a single moment from their ‘90s heyday, while Ace, with his trademark baseball cap and goatee, could have easily been a facsimile of his younger self. Handsome man-mountain drummer Mark was the male eye-candy for the evening, sweating it out topless as he muscled his way through the set, while Cass looked to be wearing his forties very well indeed.
The well-chosen career-spanning setlist featured the iconic singles ‘Selling Jesus’, ‘Brazen (Weep)’ and ‘Weak’ – all provoking word-perfect singalongs and even wilder moshing – alongside more obscure album tracks such as ‘100 Ways To Be A Good Girl’, ‘Cheap Honesty’ and ‘Milk Is My Sugar’. The biggest cheer of the night, however, undoubtedly went to ‘Twisted (Everyday Hurts)’ which created something of a human whirlpool as fans rushed to assist Skin in cresting the tops of their heads in what was probably the most successful crowd surf of the last ten years (and only her first of the evening).
Despite the cautious introduction to new song ‘Easy To Pretend’ – “You’re only the second people to hear it, and you might be the last as we’re not sure we even like it yet!” – the general consensus was a resounding thumbs up. Boasting a slightly more modern feel, it probably best recalls some of Skin’s more abrasive solo material, but that’s not to say they’ve dropped their trademark sound. A skank bomb is well and truly dropped in the first break, charging the song into a thrilling, future singalong chorus.
After a thundering ‘Little Baby Swastika’ brought the main set to a close, the deafening five-minute wait for the encore was rewarded with touching gratitude. “You have no idea how fucking great it is to be back here at the Water Rats, our spiritual home…even if it is tincey-wincey,” said a beaming Skin. When she asked who in the audience was a Skunk Anansie gig first-timer nearly half screamed back, most of them seemingly barely in their twenties. It seems then that even though the current generation of Kerrang! readers would probably say “Skunk Anan-who?”, the band have clearly maintained some kind of submarine impact, whether or not their sound ever was or ever will be “cool”.
Ultimate power ballad ‘Hedonism (Just Because It Feels Good)’ packed as much emotional punch as ever, while second new song ‘You Know’ seemed sufficiently in keeping with the rest of the set to look forward to a studio version. After roughly ninety minutes the farewell honours fell to ‘The Skank Heads’, the most raucous moment from 1999′s Post Orgasmic Chill, and was met with a stage invasion and the mother of all crowd surfs. Floated right to the back of the room, Skin paused on a barrier near the sound desk for a verse then surfed back stagewards for one last perfectly timed “Get ooooofffffff!!”
Even if the reformation of Skunk Anansie ultimately does nothing but prove that lesbian-fronted, political skank-rock is just as much a musical sore thumb this decade as it was in the ‘90s, that in itself is where the band’s powers have always lain. For if ever a generation needed to hear something not currently “cool”, it’s this one. We need sore thumbs, and Skunk Anansie know just how to comply. After all, if you’re going to do it wrong, do it fucking right.
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Photo kindly provided by Lexa.