Band of Skulls at the Guildhall (09/12/12)

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Having not seen them live before, I wandered in not knowing what to expect. A huge set of about ninety minutes covering the majority of both their recent effort, Sweet Sour, and their 2009 début, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, as well as the hometown advantage made this a night to remember.

Support came solely from Manchester’s Folks. Their sounds ranged from the friendlier britpop ‘Avalanche’ to the harder ‘My Mother’, a song which reminded me slightly of Kings Of Leon circa Youth And Young Manhood. Folks’ finalé, ‘Skull & Bones’, came closer to the expected sound of the rest of the night with screeching guitars. The set was enjoyable, and I do recommend giving them a look in, however they seemed passive and bored throughout (I even saw the roadie yawn) and ended up completely dwarfed by the sheer energy of Band of Skulls. I really wanted to get through this paragraph without making a comparison to Oasis, it’s just too easy, but when the frontman comes on stage with a tambourine and you have haircuts like theirs, you’re begging for it.

Band of Skulls come on; the lights go crazy and so do the crowd. They open with ‘Sweet Sour’, the eponymous first track of their 2012 LP. Easing you in before nailing you with the later riffs; this was the moment I knew big things were popping. Every song was on point, if there was a weak link I wasn’t noticing it, but maybe that’s because any mistakes come across as part of it all. In their biography they say they went as far as jumping on amps to give some of that character to the recordings. One of my favourite songs of the night was the slow burner ‘Navigate’. Despite being one of the quieter songs on the albums, the bridges were so massive they could probably span the sea the track mentioned.

“Tonight’s a bit special. We really feel like we made it. So for the next song, if you could all sing it with us!” They launched into ‘Fires’. Russel Marsden raised his hands in encouragement every chance he got; he really didn’t need to, the crowd were screaming it already. Whenever Marsden wasn’t on vocals duty, you could find him tearing it up on the edge of the stage interacting with the crowd as best the venue would allow. It was appreciated, with hands permanently reaching out. That energy I talked about earlier? They proved you don’t need to be bouncing around the stage to give off such presence.

“This will be our last song” – Liars, I can see your roadie tuning up for the encore, I’m pretty sure he’s pretending to play along as well, at least he’s not yawning. Anyway, ‘Light of the Morning’ sends everyone berserk. Clearly one of their most anticipated tracks for the night with some of the punchiest riffs and vocals going.
The encore was a beautiful trifecta of ‘Death By Diamonds And Pearls’, ‘Devil Takes Care Of His Own’, and a crazily heavy version of ‘Impossible’. The former was hands down the highlight of the night, eliciting the biggest reaction from the crowd. Marsden’s attitude really came through during ‘Devil’, giving the finger in every refrain of the title lyric.

That was basically the night in a nutshell; every sound you can hear on the recordings was somehow made so dense it physically shook you to the core. Every outro was another minute of organised chaos. There was no boring moment, and I honestly have no idea how Matt Haywood was still alive after beating his kit like that for 90 minutes. I think this gig may have ruined their songs for me, I just won’t be able to listen to the studio versions without thinking how much better it was live.

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