The past month has been the blackest one I can ever remember for fans of our kind of music. We seemed to be losing rock musicians every week including one of my favourites, Ronnie James Dio. After such a depressing time where the music mags were publishing obituaries every issue, what was really needed was a good old fashioned hard rock gig to lift spirits. Enter a good old fashioned hard rock band, in the form of Skin who pitched up at the Liverpool Academy, during a run of dates which will end with them performing at the Download festival, not once but twice!
Despite having their classic debut album and the follow-up, 'Lucky', incredibly this was the first time I'd ever seen this band live. They were active for much of the 1990s but their style of classic hard rock, complete with lead guitar solos, strong vocals and actually enjoying themselves didn't go down well at all with the prevailing doom 'n' gloom mood left behind by the grunge boom. They finally called it a day in the late '90s; guitarist Myke Gray went on to play briefly with a punk band (Schism) before joining Right Said Fred (!) for a time. He then reinvented himself as a fitness trainer and life coach, whereas the others apparently vanished from view altogether. Somewhat surprisingly, the band reappeared last year, initially only to perform at the 2009 Download festival and then to perform a few dates, but the shows went so well that the reunion has continued into 2010, with a new album in the offing.
The band were playing the downstairs part of the o2 Academy, before a small but lively crowd who cheered every move from singer Nev Macdonald. Perhaps in tribute to the recently passed Dio, the intro tape was Rainbow's 'Long Live Rock 'n' Roll', before the guys emerged to a loud cheer. Much of the set was given over to their old songs but they did deliver a few new ones from their recent acoustic album; whether the material was old faves or new songs it was all enthusiastically received by the crowd. This was a band that clearly enjoyed playing live and interacting with the audience, the grin on Macdonald's face never shifted all night and Gray was throwing himself about the stage, geeing up the crowd and putting a great deal of effort in. Just as well he's in such good shape!
However the real star was the singer; he sounds good on record, but live he is really something special. This was a performance from the very top drawer; he has the sort of blues-enriched voice that harks back to the classic era of British rock. He can hold his own with the very best in the business, let's hope that this time around he and his band receive a bit more recognition than they got in the 1990s. He was home with hard rockers but really demonstrated his range with the gentler stuff, such as 'Tower of Strength' and 'Reunited', both of which had the crowd cheering him long and loudly. They played two encores, surprisingly they chose not to do their cover of EMF's 'Unbelieveable' but the songs played were enough to please this crowd. They brought out their support act, singer Matti Alfonzetti for their last song; he is also a fantastic singer as was demonstrated during his own set. For that, he played solo and acoustic, but Skin's Myke Gray and Colin McLeod appeared on stage to accompany him on two numbers, much to the delight of the early attendees. That was a rare thing in itself, the support act being accompanied by two members of the headline act - although the fact that Gray used to be in a band with Alfonzetti (Jagged Edge) may have had something to do with that!
There have been a few comebacks in recent years with the resurgence of old-school rock, make sure you don't miss out on this one and be sure to check out Skin live.
Skinfreak - official website