Band of Skulls, The Pyramids Centre, Southsea REVIEW: 'Packed full of swinging, breeze-block riffs'
Given that this show is billed as a 10th anniversary celebration of Band of Skulls’ debut album, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, it’s a pleasant surprise to hear them actually launch proceedings with the title track of this year's release Love is All You Love.
It comes from the more melodic end of the Southampton-based trio’s canon, and is a relatively gentle warm-up.
This is followed by You’re Not Pretty But You've Got It Goin’ On from their second album, Sweet Sour – a more in your face affair.
From there, we get to the meat of the matter. As soon as the stop-start opening of Baby Darling’s first track Light of The Morning rings out, there’s a huge cheer.
After this, things are largely as expected. The band’s debut was a confident, critically acclaimed calling card – packed full of swinging, breeze-block riffs and some unusual arrangements to keep the listeners on their toes.
And with two lead vocalists, guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson, trading leads, even lines within a song, and some impressive harmonising, they’ve got a not-so-secret weapon.
It’s not all-out bombast though.
Halfway through the album’s run through, Russell and Emma come centre stage to a single mic with acoustic guitars. There’s another detour as they play Hometowns, again from Sweet Sour, before what should have come next – Honest. Led by Emma, already one of their sonically less abrasive but emotionally rawer songs, it becomes here a stunning country-tinged ballad.
Co-founding drummer Matt Hayward departed before the last album, so drumming duties are now fulfilled by Julian Dorio. Fortunately the American is an old friend – Band of Skulls played together with his other band, The Whigs, on the Baby Darling US tour. He provides the perfect foil to his two colleagues.
Shows like this can often expose weaknesses in the original tracklist – the filler that would never have otherwise made it onto a setlist.
However, even penultimate album track Dull Gold Heart, which was seldom played live before this tour, is more inspiring than its name suggests.
Album closer Cold Fame is a slow-building epic – coming to an appropriately barn-storming climax.
There’s more to come though with a romp through of a handful of their bigger rockers such as the aptly titled Himalayan and The Devil Takes Care of His Own.
With this being the band’s closing night of the tour and final show of the year, they’re in good spirits throughout.
As one of the bigger musical success stories from Hampshire in recent years, it's good to see the band have made it to this landmark.
Here’s to plenty more.