Live Review: Skunk Anansie, Manchester

Skunk Anansie with Queen Zee

Manchester Academy, Manchester, 18 August 2019

Words and Photos: Gary Lambert

Skunk Anansie 1

There are fewer heartwarming sights than seeing a ticket tout in the rain getting ignored by everybody outside a sell out gig complaining that someone was “robbing” them by giving away a ticket for free. I’m a terribly impatient person at the best of times so I chose to stand devoid of shelter to watch this take place whilst I waited for the queue to die down outside Manchester Academy. It made the traditional light drizzle of the twin cities of Salford and Manchester feel like champagne flowing from bottles at the end of a Formula One race.

That was a pretty start to the evening, but the gig itself was started by Queen Zee. If you’re a regular visitor to the world of Popped Music, you will know that we are massive fans of Zena Davine and her bandmates. Seeing them supporting a band as big as Skunk Anansie in a massive room like this was so exciting, and the band did not disappoint. It was brilliant too to see so many people filling the room for Queen Zee. Skunk Anansie had sung their praises on social media beforehand and you could see that had brought several hundred intrigued additional fans into the venue early as opposed to the pubs of Oxford Road.Queen Zee

Usually Queen Zee sound gritty and raw which suits basement rooms where you can see the whites of the band’s eyes from the back of it, but here their sound seemed to be more bass-heavy and thunderous and filled every cubic inch. Queen Zee sounded like an arena band whilst still sounding like Queen Zee, and their version of Victim Age was a step up from that even. I could tell from the energy changing within the audience too that this was the song that really grabbed their attention. From my position at the back of the room, there seemed to be a perceptible switch from the audience being well entertained to the audience getting involved with Queen Zee.

Whilst Queen Zee may have sounded like an arena band, when it came to Skunk Anansie (celebrating their 25th year), the veterans sounded like they could headline Glastonbury again at a moment’s notice. Everything about the set made me feel like I was watching a stadium band in one of the sporting bowls outside of Manchester city centre. Obviously a lot of the plaudits for that go to Skin who dominated the stage and audience with all the theatrics and magnetism of Freddie Mercury. When the set closer involves the singer raging through Little Baby Swastikkka whilst crowdsurfing from the sound desk to the stage, you know that you’ve watched a show.

Incredibly for an anniversary tour the new tracks offered up by Skunk Anansie were massively appreciated by the audience (there was no rush to the bar/toilet) and felt more of the times than an attempt to grab a few quid by hitting on people’s nostalgia. What You Do For Love is the first single from the latest wave of Skunk Anansie music and sounds big and bold, but This Means War was special. “A song so new we haven’t even recorded it yet”, This Means War is the call to arms that we all need during these terrible times of unofficial fascism in Britain. It is a song I cannot wait for Skunk Anansie to have the time to record and release so that I can play it almost continuously.

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The biggest hits, Weak and Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good), sounded great to sing with thousands of other fans, but weirdly those moments, those memories of Britpop on the radio and Cool Britannia, felt almost out of place. Right now, Skunk Anansie, a band made up of the children of immigrants, with their throbbing, political heavy rock that electrifies the mind and soul, lead by a shaven-headed, openly bisexual, black woman feel born for our times. Maybe this tour will go down not as a celebration of twenty five years of slogging their guts out all over the world, but as the tour where the world realised exactly why we need Skunk Anansie. And if you prefer to hide from the need for bands like Skunk Anansie, I think Skin, Cass, Ace and Mark said it best, yes it’s fucking political, everything is political.

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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