Live Review: Band Of Skulls

The Roundhouse 6th March

Last night was real evidence that guitar music is well and truly alive. Back to basics, good old fashioned Rock n' Roll was gobbled up in lavish quantities, with numerous helpings of bludgeoning beats and big choruses. It was the largest UK show yet for Band Of Skulls, and their support, Broken Hands, were a welcome glimpse into a future of thriving Rock music.

Having done my research on Broken Hands beforehand, I was eager to see how their raw blend of Indie/Blues Rock transfered to the live setting. There were worries of 'Pub Rock' echoing around my mind, but when a small-ish, young and slightly awkward-looking man came on stage and bellowed "Sorrow won't you leave me, sorrow won't you leave", my doubts all but disappeared. This guy (Dale Norton) had some powerful lungs on him!

They opened with Sorrow; a track taken from their latest EP, The Quadrangle Session, and blew the audience away! (They were already playing to a packed out venue, which in my experience, is fairly uncommon for a support band). Blasting their way through a set of brawny Blues Rock including Brother, Lies and What You've Taken, it was the most Bluesy of them all, a new track, Shaky, which was the real highlight. "This next one's as new to us as it is to you", Norton confessed

The crowd was buzzing. Band Of Skulls walked on to rapturous applause and screams. The stage lit up and the first pounding drum beats and guitar hammer-ons of Sweet Sour set the audience into a frenzy. The title track of their latest album, it was a fantastic opener, setting the standard for the rest of the night. Now, you may remember I recently reviewed Sweet Sour (read here), saying that the record "provides few surprises, playing firmly on the side of caution throughout". Well, this is where I get down on my knees, apologise and take it all back. If you were in the same mindset as me about the album, I urge you to go and see Band Of Skulls live. It's the only way to truly appreciate the power and talent of this band. Anyway, back to the review..

Playing a mix of songs from their debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey and their latest offering, guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson (with a distinct Chrissie Hynde look and attitude about her) filled the 3,000 capacity venue with belting riffs, Classic Rock solos and beautifully vocals and harmonies in perfect unison.

Amongst the frantic, upbeat tracks, the band showed their versatility with the slower songs such as Lay My Head Down, which featured an elegant a capella chorus to finish the song. Along with the mesmerising vocals, the addition of a shimmering glitter ball illuminating the room seemed to send the audience into some kind of hypnotic state of relaxation and appreciation. But it wasn't long before the vigorous, Queens Of The Stone Age-like drumming of You're Not Pretty But You Got It Goin' On' kicked in and got the crowd jumping around again.

The mosh-pit was in full force for most of the night; a few unsuccessful crowd-surfers were pulled from the depths like reluctant fish hooked on a rod. It was scenes like that that made me resent my allocated seating. I was itching to join in on the action!

There was one song that really changed things for me; Light Of The Morning. One of the band's older songs, the introduction was slowed down for dramatic effect. Marsden wasn't afraid to take his time and really pull back. The unison technique that usually appears in the vocals was this time attributed to Marsden's voice and his guitar. It was oozing Led Zeppelin out of every orifice. It had that classic 70's Rock feel, it was brilliant. True musicality and musicianship at it's best. This was the song that made me realise the real potential and skill of this band. Light Of The Morning is the track that will take Band Of Skulls into the arenas and stadiums, and boy, when that happens, I'll be the first in line.

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