30th June 2018
Review and Photography by Graham Hilling
It’s another balmy summer evening as I roll up at the Shepherds Bush Empire for an evening of music care of Theatre of Hate and The Skids. Arriving well in advance of the first set, I’m a little surprised to see the venue quite empty, of’course, many of the more, shall we say, mature punters (and I include myself in this bracket) will be drinking in one of the local pubs and making the most of the reduced drink prices before confining themselves to the bars at the Empire.
Sure enough, as Theatre of Hate take to the stage, the venue, while not overflowing, is filled quite nicely and there is a welcome air of expectation.
Theatre of Hate are one of those bands that defy being pigeon holed into a particular genre. For those unfamiliar with them, they have great singalong songs coupled with a very solid rhythm section. The sound is really charaterized by a couple of things though, the vocals of Kirk Brandon (who sounds like no other!) and haunting, rich sax.
Together all of these elements combine to produce a sound that is pretty unique. Starting with “Original Sin”, it’s not long before the crowd are all singing along, and this sets the tone for the set.
Brandon puts everything into the performance and while ToH may not always sound like the tightest band on the planet, there’s no denying the passion is there.
The sax in particular adds an extra dimension to the band that lifts them well above most of their contemporaries from the 80’s when they were originally formed from the remains of The Pack, Brandons previous band.
“Incinerator” is another favourite that has the crowd jumping around with its groove and stocatto drumming punctuating walking bass lines. Stan Stammers (on bass) looking like a man who’s enjoying himself and feels very much at home on a stage. Brandon himself pulls some quite strange dance moves on the stage, he’s obviously having fun too!
“Day of the Dog” brings us back up to date with another great singalong and a sharp commentary of the state of the world, followed by “Conquistador” which the crowd laps up like a sponge. “Judgement Hymn” slows things down a little and “Propaganda” then speeds it up again. By this time there’s some fine moshing (of a sort) going on and theres no doubt everyone is enjoying themselves.
“Legion” is one of the best songs in the set and sees Brandon looking like he is about to burst every blood vessel in his body, it seems like the whole crowd is singing along by the end of the song.
Finishing with another crowd pleaser, “Westworld” with its anthemic chorus of “….do you believe in the Westworld?” and tribalesque rhythms it’s been another excellent set from a band that refuses to lie down and die. And a good job too!
So, the scene is set for The Skids. Playing a set that almost reads like a greatest hits list, there’s not much to be unhappy with there.
Starting with “This is Our World” from the latest album, Burning Cities, it sits pretty well alongside the material that dates back to the late 70’s. Indeed Richard Jobson muses how this album was kept from the no 1 spot on one album chart by Leo Sayer! The fact that it was Leo Sayer leaving a bit of a bad taste!
“Charade”, “Of One Skin” and “Melancholy Soldiers” all follow in quick succession, favourites from the past, and the crowd duly reacts and mirrors the energy pouring out on the stage.
Indeed, Jobson is a man who likes to engage with his audience, talking between most of the songs and he jokes a short way into the set how the band come out all energetic and ready to give their all and by song 4 they look at the setlist (which has lots of songs on it) and you think….phew! He also jokes about how the rock and roll life style now involves drinking tea before performing!
“Kings of the New World Order” goes down well and it is heartening to see the crowd embrace the new material in much the same way as the old. “Working for the Yankee Dollar”, almost prophetic considering how long ago it was written and US politics today. “The Saints are Coming” is another old classic that has the whole venue singing along.
Jobson jokes about guitarist Jamie Watson actually being Ed Sheeran (there is a passing resemblance) and how they’ve managed to recruit a keyboard player who is a bit of a looker! He also comments on his “shit dancing” commenting that we now have a room full of “shit dancers!”
A moment of reflection before “Charles” sees Jobson ask the crowd to give some thought to Stuart Adamson, co-founder of the Skids who committed suicide in 2001. There is obviously still a lot of affection for Adamson, he was a brilliant composer and clearly a massive part of the Skids.
“A Woman in Winter” goes down very well, once again the gathered crowd singing along to the riff that the song starts with. Jobson clearly loves hearing the audience sing this back to him, it clearly shows how the crowd connects so well with the band, and is actually almost moving (at least to an old softy like me!)
Going slightly off piste, the inclusion of “TV Stars”, although not on the official setlist, is welcomed although it is really easy to see how this very early Skids song doesn’t stand up to anything like the scrutiny of the latter material! Before we know it, the two final songs, “Masquerade” and “Into the Valley” are booming out from the PA. Both of these are absolute classics and just have to be included. By this time, the crowd is clearly enjoying the gig and pretty much everyone is singing along.
A quick break and then it is back for the encore. The band leave the stage finally with Jobson coaxing the crowd into singing the intro to “A Woman in Winter” again, he is clearly loving this. Jobson comes over as a genuine, honest kind of guy and it is really heart warming to see the band playing good sized venues and drawing in a sizable crowd. I look forward to seeing the Skids again (and again!)