Review: Band of Skulls at O2 Guildhall, Southampton (8/11/2014)

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Southampton’s finest received a hero’s welcome when they took to the famous stage at the Guildhall. The fireworks outside were no match for Band of Skulls‘ explosive performance; the second date of their tour supporting their third album Himalayan. Local trio Russell Marsden, Emma Richardson and Matt Hayward played to an adoring full house.

Less can be said for the support, as Bo Ningen, the Japanese acid punk rockers, were quite the musical cocktail. They stormed off stage having barely strummed their guitars. Amid screeching feedback, and not before flinging their guitars at the drum kit, the four- piece left the crowd bemused, and clamoring for some actual music. The headliners duly obliged.

Opening with a drawn out, stuttering rendition of ‘Light of the Morning’, Marsden and Richardson split vocal duties. They ramped up the anticipation of the cavernous hall to an unbearable level, prompting pandemonium when Hayward finally kicked in on the drums. So went the rest of the set, with long build ups to their trademark heavy riffs. Marsden and Richardson were on particularly intrepid form; they prowled around every corner of the stage, leaning over into the faces of the wide-eyed front row, Marsden’s long blond hair almost brushing their excited faces.

Fans even had the chance to relive the milestone gig, as a limited edition recording was available with special signed copies exclusively to the first hundred in attendance. Being prompt reaps reward!

Blindingly lit by seven huge glittered spotlights and shrouded in mist, the night drew heavily from their back catalogue; ‘Patterns’ and ‘Death by Diamonds and Pearls’ from the band’s debut album received a bruising reception from the lively folks in attendance. ‘The Devil Takes Care of His Own’ and their second album’s eponymous ‘Sweet and Sour’ raucously followed.

Marsden had the audience wrapped around his little finger. Like a maestro conducting his orchestra, every flick of the wrist was received with rapturous applause and deafening cheers. The homecoming was emotional charged, in between songs Marsden found time to tell the crowd how happy their reception made them feel, that they had been “looking forward to this all year”.

The packed set list of course found time for Himalayan, the bands third studio album to date, released back in march. ‘Brothers and Sisters’ and penultimate track ‘Hoochie Coochie’ went down to thunderous applause. Finishing off with a particularly rousing rendition of ‘Hollywood Bowl’, the bands’ 90 minute set was raucous from beginning to end. It left the audience breathless battered and bruised, all in a nights work.

Front man Marsden ended an emotional night thanking the crowd, “we’ve been Band of Skulls. Your Band of Skulls”. It felt genuine. The evening was nothing if not a warm embrace from the locals on stage and those off it.

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Im Freddie and Im a nerd. I go to as many gigs as I can because I love getting elbowed in the face to the sound of music.

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