Skunk Anansie: O2 Academy, Leeds

Before each gig everyone has a perception of what they expect it’s going to be like, mine ended up being well wide of the mark. I remember the height of Skunk Anansie’s fame from my childhood in the 90’s, at the time they were heavy but since then music has moved on and those 90’s tracks have featured regularly on Radio 2 afternoon shows. I was expecting a laid back and atmospheric affair, I was so wrong.

My first clue came from watching the gathering crowd, it was a strange mix of Radio 2 listeners but mainly regular Download Festival attendees. Skunk Anansie took to the stage after a provocative graphics display backlit the stage. Skin arrived in her usual hyper and frantic fashion, these attributes combined with her outfit brought to mind the image of a startled Raven.

From the moment they began playing ‘The Skank Heads’, and the bass was thumping through my chest, it became clear this was going to be much heavier and electrifying than I had bargained for. Skin’s charisma and attitude are infectious and make compelling viewing. The crowd adored her and she seemed genuinely fond of them in return, conversing with them between songs in her own unique softly spoken and sexually confident style. During the performance of each track she displays her confidence by frantically running round entertaining the crowd with her incomparable vocals, she surely is the owner of the most melodic and enchanting scream in the world. During ‘Twisted (Everyday Hurts)’ she threw herself into the adoring crowd, trusting them to support her as she continued to sing while surfing the crowd.

The newer material was as well received as the classics from all sectors of the crowd. During ‘Weak’ the crowd loudly sang along, and the same was true of ‘Hedonism’. ‘Spit You Out’ saw an explosion of crowd activity, the mad moshing of the Download goers at the front faded away into the sometimes painfully awkward dad dancing of the Radio 2 listeners at the back.

This was a flawless performance, the band were so tight they were synchronized and they played the perfect mix of new and old. Skin stole the whole show with her impassioned performance reminiscent of a rebellious teenager. The final song of the encore showed that she is a true crowd pleaser. She got amongst the mosh pit waking between them, fully emerging herself with them, and singing directly to them before mounting the sound engineer’s desk. From this platform she fell backwards onto the crowd so they could pass her back to the stage as she continued to sing. The crowd adored Skunk Anansie and in return the band gave them great value for money.