Skinny Lister – O2 Academy, Leicester, 9th May 2015
In these post-apocalyptic first few hours following the General Election there is a sense that something isn’t quite right. There is a collective feeling that the world is about to go to hell in a hand cart and judging by the receding hair lines and Next apparel on show, it is clear that middle-aged man has paid the babysitter well and come out to man the barricades for one last hurrah. There is a distinct absence of ‘youth’ here but that’s probably because they are all next door at the uni disco, dancing to George Ezra and drinking Tuborg and black.
The evening starts with local gypsy-punks The Brandy Thieves who machete their way through 20 minutes of earnest hollering and trumpet playing to an appreciative gathering of friends and followers. Diminutive vocalist Andrea Kenny has the knack of nearly taking the roof off with her soaring vocals which at times had me fearing for the safety of my pint glass. Thankfully, it was plastic. But no sooner had she warmed up her larynx than The Brandy Thieves were gone, a far too brief a set.
Replacing them was one Sean McGowan who immediately starts by reminding us what we already knew, he’s not Shane MacGowan. I think we’d already worked that one out. What he is, however, still remains a mystery. He has an acoustic guitar, an attitude and a bunch of songs which display his frustration with the world. With a vocal style reminiscent of Jamie T he is either Billy Bragg lite or Ed Sheeran heavy, take your pic. But boy can the lad natter? Remember the scene in Trainspotting where Spud goes for an interview whilst on speed? Well, you get the picture.
This is the third time I’ve caught Skinny Lister live in the last 12 months. The previous occasion was last Autumn when they turned in a blindingly ramshackle performance in the smallest of the three venues at the Leicester O2 academy. Six months on, they’ve been promoted to the Queens Hall, all wood panelling and expensive bottled beer. Unlike the rest of the country, things are on the up for Skinny Lister and deservedly so. This, a home town gig for Lorna and Max Thomas, is the culmination of their promotional tour for the recently released ‘Down On Deptford Broadway‘ and they intend to have a party.
At 9.15pm, swaggering onto the stage, they brazenly launch into ‘Raise A Wreck‘ and the ubiquitous flagon of rum is handed down and duly quaffed by an audience baying for a brief respite from their humdrum and problem-strewn lives. For that is what Skinny Lister are all about. Fun. Nothing more, nothing less. They are an oasis of chaos in an otherwise well-scripted world.
They effortlessly move through the gears, new tracks such as ‘George’s Glass‘ and ‘Then Thousand Voices‘ sit comfortably alongside old favourites ‘Rollin’ Over‘ and ‘Seventeen Summers‘ but they have changed since we last met. There is a sharpness to them now, a genuine confidence and boy are they tighter than George Osborne’s spending cuts? Here is a band in full flow, muscles ripped from a continuous bout of touring and it shows.
Yet it hasn’t changed them one iota. There are cheesy grins from every angle, every band member seems to be high on whatever Sean McGowan was taking but they’re not on anything stronger than adrenalin…and rum…and lager. I’m not sure they can quite believe it themselves. At the note perfect culmination of ‘Trouble on Oxford Street‘ Lorna suddenly exclaims “shit the bed!” as if she is unable to comprehend quite how good Skinny Lister have become. A swift apology to her Mum may not save her from a telling off over Sunday lunch though.
‘This Is War‘ could be a rabble rousing chorus of political defiance. It isn’t.
‘Trawlerman‘ could be a damning indictment of the fishing industry. It isn’t
‘Six Whiskies‘ could be about the problems of binge drinking. It probably is.
Their songs offer little new to the world, let’s be honest here. They won’t win an Ivor Novello any day now but that isn’t their raison d’être. Their purpose is to put a smile on your face and their manifesto is littered with references to folk, punk, rock and the occasional nod to Captain Pugwash.
Naturally, the singles are delivered as is the shout-along shanty ‘John Kanaka‘ complete with compulsory audience participation. The rest of the Skinny Lister playbook is wheeled out including a crowd-surfing double bass player and an appearance from Dad otherwise known as ‘Party George’. Yes, this is what you get with Skinny Lister, if you want to be miserable then go and watch Interpol.
I love Skinny Lister. They have provided some of the most uplifting live moments I’ve experienced in recent years and as long as they avoid heading down that dark, dangerous cul-de-sac known as Mumford & Sons Avenue then I am happy to keep swigging away with the rest of the rum-fuelled revellers. However, next time round I fear they will have outgrown the Queens Hall but I won’t begrudge them any success which comes their way. Judging by the expressions on several hundred faces as they made their way back to their Ford Focuses, I am not the only one.
Some hours later, it occurred to me that I’ve spent many, many hours in the Queens Hall and every single one has been during a Tory government. A strange fact but true. As austerity starts to bite we are all going to need to work harder to make the world around us a better and happier place. If you want my advice, start with Skinny Lister.
Where there is discord, may we bring Skinny Lister. Where there is error, may we bring Skinny Lister. Where there is doubt, may we bring Skinny Lister. And where there is despair…well, you know where to come.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.