With their latest album, Himalayan, having been released earlier this year, Band Of Skulls decided to take a trip around the UK to show off their new material, kindly making a stop for us here in Exeter. Curiously, there was only one support act for when they played the Lemmy last week, meaning that they must have had complete faith in this band to single-handedly hype up the crowd before the main event. And if there’s ever a band to get a reaction out of an audience, then it’s Bo Ningen.
In short, they were the strangest band that I’ve ever come across. Now based in London but originally from Japan, by the end of their set I was just confused but admittedly in awe of their complete originality. Their music is an amalgamation of yelping vocals, thrashing drums, metal riffs, even a blues-y melody or two… Everything, all at once. The songs were lengthy too, merging into one another with hardly any breaks, with the closing song of the set having an outro that was about five minutes long. Their performance style was as unique as their sound: the front man’s facial expressions while playing bass were something else. It seemed like he was mouthing words to someone across the room while being in intense pain at the same time, and his spasmodic dancing in between singing was questionable… The crowd loved it though; the cheers went on until well after the end of the last song. Although their music may not have been to my taste, their complete originality and showmanship should be applauded and I definitely recommend that everyone at least looks them up on YouTube. This band is not one to be ignored.
Band Of Skulls were awesome. From the first time I listened to their new album, I knew that it was made to be heard live and I wasn’t wrong. They played a great selection of songs from Himalayan including my personal favourite, I Guess I Know You Fairly Well, as well as title track, Himalayan, and Asleep At The Wheel, which sounded even more explosive when played live. Previous albums, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey and Sweet Sour, were also well represented in the set, so any Band Of Skulls fan would have been satisfied.
The atmosphere in the room was a bit tame to begin with, but got more energetic as the set went on and by the second half of the set the energy in the room was high, the perfect atmosphere for a classic Band Of Skulls song like Death By Diamonds And Pearls which appeared near the end of the set. It was great to hear Russell Marsden’s soulful voice in real life and the harmonies between his voice and bassist, Emma Richardson’s were gorgeous. Marsden also used lots of different guitar effects which don’t appear on the recorded versions of the songs, giving them a new dynamic in this live setting.
At the beginning of the set, Marsden announced that this was the penultimate show of the tour, so the band would be putting their heart and soul into it. My favourite live performers are the ones that don’t try to hide their enthusiasm – all the band members had big smiles on their faces at the end of every song and you could tell how much they loved playing these songs and how much they appreciated the people in the audience for being there. The Lemon Grove didn’t seem like the right venue for a band with a sound as big and confident as Band Of Skulls – their show was fit for an arena. Hopefully, that’s where they are headed next.