Band of Skulls at the Engine Rooms, Southampton

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Band of Skulls played a confident and self assured show in front of a sellout crowd at the Engine Rooms on the back of their fourth studio album By Default. It was a triumphant return for the trio and they soaked up the adoration from the hometown crowd. Russell Marsden was on guitar and he split the vocals with Emma Richardson who wielded the base in a high heeled, leather clad power stance. Matt Hayward sat at the helm of his drum kit between the two of them, central and elevated like Jesus at the last supper with the beard and hair to match.

Two arched stained glass windows adorned the backdrop of the stage in a nod to the baptist church that By Default was recorded in. They opened with ‘In Love by Default’, a new song from their latest record and managed to ramp up the energy and instigate a clappy sing along, even though we didn’t quite know the lyrics.

Marsden then signalled that it was time for the smouldering ‘Light of the Morning’ by plucking his A and E strings and letting the reverb hang over all of us. He held his pick aloft and just as the reverb began to shrink away he sung, in unison with Emma Richardson, the opening line. They strung out every word and paused a beat before Matt Hayward came crashing in with the drums. The crowd was a little bit salt and pepper – a sea of faded Metallica and Pink Floyd t-shirts, but they screamed back every line and by the time the riff kicked in I was being knocked around like a pinball.

Marsden was in intrepid form and wore a huge smile throughout as he leaned over into the crowd and conducted like a maestro with a flick of his wrist. The set borrowed heavily from their first two records and the acoustics in the Engine Rooms made their low-slung scuzzy sound tickle my toes. They are Britain’s answer to the Black Keys with a psychedelic electric blues sound that feels just like a bar fight in some tavern out in the midwest of America.

The trio got the whole place rocking from front to back once they slipped into ‘Patterns’, a standout from their debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. Old fashioned grizzly blues topped with some psychedelic riffs. They seamlessly followed that up with ‘So Good’ another song lifted from their latest album that saw Emma Richardson’s heavenly ‘coos’ float above a much funkier sound. Matt Hayward grimaced as he pounded his toms for the thunderous ‘Sweet Sour’ and was backed up by some mighty fine hammering on Marsden’s guitar.

The band then pumped the brakes a little and glowed a bright white for a heartfelt rendition of ‘Cold Fame’. It had everyone a little misty eyed as they screamed the last few lines ”Cold Fame in my brain bit its okay ‘cos I know it’s the best for me”.

Band of Skulls scorched through ‘Death by Diamonds and Pearls’ before they played the little pantomime and left the stage. We all screamed for more and the band of course returned for their encore. They roared through the hard charging ‘I Know What I Am’ and swaggered in the clenched teeth sleaze. The crowd got a little bit moshy for the swan song of ‘Asleep at the Wheel’ which is understandable given the shredding guitar solo from Marsden. It whipped up a frenzy and was a fitting way to cap off the evening.

Band of Skulls toured throughout the UK and Europe in October and November.

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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 music; a pursuit I've thrown all my pennies at. Money well spent.

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