Skunk Anansie @Newcastle O2 Academy, September 1 2019

How the hell can it be Skunk Anansie’s 25th Anniversary? It feels like no time at all since I first heard Paranoid & Sunburnt and found myself bowled over by the sheer power of its content! This isn’t a performance of that classic album in its entirety (a popular move that can be hit and miss) but rather a celebration of a quarter of a century of awe-inspiring rock.

Kicking off with Charlie Big Potato sets the bar high and the band is firing on all cylinders. As always Cass is cool as a cucumber providing the solid bass to Ace’s off kilter guitar riff and Mark’s absolute beast of a drum beat. But all eyes – understandably – are on Skin as she makes her entrance and there it is: that voice! The sweet yet absolute crushing power that can have you banging your head one minute then melting your heart the next.

And her stage presence is as huge as ever – Skin starting out in a head dress and costume that envelopes the charismatic frontwoman. All you can see is a swirl of red silver and gold tassels with every fresh twist and turn. 

Because Of You is breathtaking – the delivery offers firm proof that Skin’s voice hasn’t diminished at all during that 25-year rollercoaster. Hitting every one of those notes without a problem she’s also never been more expressive with one look encapsulating the sweet and the terrifying.

During All In The Name Skin climbs the barrier (not for the first time) and puts her trust in her fans for a swift crowd surf – still never dropping a note. Sticking with that debut album the all-out rocker I Can Dream is up next, creating a sweaty jump about on a balmy evening in the Toon.

The two hour set is filled with fan favourites but also some new material: This Means War is huge with its chunky riff and ridiculously heavy drum track. 

Twisted , Charity , Weak , Hedonism and Intellectualise My Blackness still sound as fresh today as they did back in the 90s and the band’s connection with their fans has never been stronger. Crowd participation was a big factor and not only did Skin ‘part the waves’ and sing from the centre of the throng but Cass also got in on the act – going walkabout with his bass to celebrate his birthday! 

Yes It’s Fucking Political and Tear The Place Up bring the main set to a riotous close but it’s not long before Skunk Anansie are back to treat the crowd to a five song encore (six, if you include Happy Birthday) including a cover of AC/DC classic Highway To Hell

It’s a shame we only get a tease of Selling Jesus as Skin takes a crowd vote as to whether to play a soft ballad or hard rocker to end the night after Skank Heads (Get Off Me). But in a set this strong it wasn’t too much of a miss. 

Obviously the hard rocker won the vote and the classic Little Baby Swastika shook the foundations of the Academy. Happy 25th Skunk Anansie. Here’s to many more years of knocking it out of the park.

Words and pictures by Gordon Armstrong