Note to self: don’t wear a jumper to a Band of Skulls gig. Rock this rowdy is definitely not something you need an extra layer for.
That said, my choice of outfit was the only thing I would’ve changed about last week’s homecoming performance from the Southampton rock trio at The Joiners, one of the city’s oldest live music venues. The Joiners are celebrating their 50th year in 2018, which is why myself and the rest of the sold-out crowd were to be treated to a special, one-off gig from the local favourites, their first appearance on the south coast since last summer’s Victorious Festival. Joined by drummer Julian Dorio, on loan from his own garage rock band The Whigs, Band of Skulls lead guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson were clearly pumped to be taking to the Joiners stage once again.
Diving straight into their punchy, signature sound blues rock, the band began with the title track from their 2012 album Sweet Sour, followed up by the grungier Fires. With nearly a decade of music behind them, Band of Skulls have a fierce and loyal following, and the local contingent were definitely in attendance. It soon became obvious the band had curated a set list full of classics with the fans in mind.
Band of Skull’s style is like a homage to the guitar, blending genres and eras effortlessly, from blues to folk, glam rock to garage rock. Russell and Emma share vocal duties, bringing a gorgeous richness to the lyrics, with harmony-filled choruses yet with enough solo sections for each of them to take the spotlight. The result is an eclectic, fusion sound, full of growling bass, varying tempos and stylish riffs.
Band of Skull’s style is like a homage to the guitar, blending genres and eras effortlessly, from blues to folk, glam rock to garage rock.
The band picked up the pace with fan favourite You’re Not Pretty but You Got it Goin’ On, with Russell fist-bumping fans and the first mosh pit of the night kicking off. The more mellow Bruises was next, followed by Emma’s vocal showcase Patterns and one of the catchiest choruses going.
After the twang-laden So Good, Russell introduced what seemed likely to be an as-yet unreleased song, excitingly promising it would make sense in about six months. We didn’t even get a title, but it sounded great.
The second half of the gig was mainly dedicated to the biggest, boldest Band of Skulls’ rock bangers, including Brothers and Sisters, classy album star-turn Himalayan, the infinitely moshable Asleep at The Wheel and the thundering The Devil Takes Care of His Own. Slipped in amongst them was the beautiful Cold Fame, the slow, reflective final number from the band’s 2009 debut album, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, complete with a stunning guitar solo from Russell.
Anyone who’s been to The Joiners will know it’s an intimate venue, so rather than leaving the stage and coming back, the band launched straight into their encore finale. Starting with glam stomper Hoochie Coochie followed by the pounding I Know What I Am, Band of Skulls finished rather poetically with the opening two songs from their first album. The mantra-like Light of the Morning merged seamlessly into the swaggering and uber-cool Death by Diamonds and Pearls, leaving the crowd on a hard-rocking (and slightly sweaty) high.