Bristol, Thekla - 10 December 2009
Well, it’s not going to get any more official than this, I suppose. Not only are Skin embarking on their first tour for ten years, they’ve also been back in the studio as well. The Thekla is actually a boat permanently moored in Bristol Harbour, and below decks there are plenty of people ready to welcome back a band who have definitely been away too long. It’s different for me, as I saw the band 6 months ago in London, but amongst the assembled faithful there is a palpable level of excitement.
Support has been from Toby Jepson, entertaining people with an electric guitar, a microphone and nothing else, but we miss him due to the venue telling me the wrong time for his slot. Sorry, Toby. As good as everyone says he was, the night belongs to Skin. From start to finish they don’t put a foot wrong, and it’s like they never went away. “Am I the One” kicks it all off, although to be honest it really wouldn’t matter what they played, as everyone here seems to know the words to all of their songs. During “Tower Of Strength” the crowd do a good job of drowning Neville McDonald out completely, and quite often through the gig he just stand there and looks completely flabbergasted at the level of appreciation that is flowing from the crowd.
It’s a pretty small stage, with the flag that looked like a postage stamp at Donnington making a fine backdrop this time round. Keyboard player Colin McLeod (of the Clan McLeod) is shunted off to the side a bit, but I honestly can’t hear a single thing he does through the whole gig. I hope he still gets paid. Aside from this, the sound is pretty good, although Myke Gray’s guitar is occasionally a bit drowned, though never totally. Gray himself throws shapes like a twelve year old Malmsteen worshipper after a sugar fix, with the whole band looking like their having a great time. Many of the crowd will have seen them a few times in the past in Bristol at The Bierkeller or Fleece & Firkin, and old memories flood back with the old tracks. It’s amazing, but they’re actually better than they were before, perhaps because the pressure is completely different now, allowing them to enjoy themselves without any pressure from the outside. Neville McDonald especially impresses, his voice absolutely perfect on those big notes. His hair is quite a bit shorter these days, but I do notice that he doesn’t seem to have cut it recently, so maybe we’ll see an eventual return to shaggy haired glory.
As well as old favourites we get a couple of new songs, starting with “Redemption”, a slow burner that picks up the pace gradually and ends up rocking nicely. Later on, the band encore with “Reunited”, which sees Nev borrow a guitar pick from an audience member (shouldn’t that be the other way round) for a brilliant acoustic number that basically says how great it is to be back doing what they do best. As with the best Skin songs, it lends itself well to audience participation even if you’ve never heard it before. Elsewhere, participation is a must, with Nev never having to actually ask for it. We belt out the “Baby Baby Baby” part of “Look But Don’t Touch”, and helpfully shout out “What The Fuck Was That” when Toby Jepson comes back on for their wonderful cover of “Unbelievable”. As “Perfect Day” and “Shine Your Light” close the set there’s a sense that both band and crowd would have stayed all night if they’d been allowed, and it’s without doubt a gig that will stick in many people’s minds for a long time to come. Welcome back, boys.
Review by Alan Holloway, alan "at" rockunited.com