The Haunt, Brighton – May 10th, 2017
If you are a regular gig and festival goer you will undoubtley have seen the name Skinny Lister on a line-up somewhere over the last few years.
Their ‘always on tour’ motto is probably only surpassed by Xtra Mile label-mate Frank Turner, who they’ve supported many times, and whose influence is easy to see. With tours alongside US heavyweights Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s also under their belt, it’s not hard to see how they’ve perfectly honed the sound of self-proclaimed ‘trad-folk-punk’.
Despite several line-up changes over the years, their latest record ‘The Devil, The Heart & The Fight’ sees them embark on their biggest UK headline tour to date, which tonight lands firmly in one of Brighton’s less trendy venues, The Haunt. It’s dark, annoyingly funnel-shaped (with a huge pinch-point by the bar and entrance) and certainly not glamorous, but with its cavernous downstairs and overhanging balcony, perfect for Skinny Lister to whip up a storm.
Support comes from AJJ, who like Skinny Lister join Frank Turner for the last day of his Lost Evenings festival at The Roundhouse on Monday. They bring their own mini fanbase with the front two rows singing every word, and requesting songs which get both the crowd and band moving.
By the time the main act arrive the tight crowd are well warmed-up as frontman Dan Heptinstall launches straight into recent singles ‘Wanted’ and ‘Geordie Lad’. While the new record is far more slickly polished than previous efforts, luckily this live setting loses much of the over-production and concentrates on pure entertainment.
Much of this is down to co-singer Lorna Thomas, who – having little to do in some songs – spends much of the gig in and out of the crowd leading the dancing. The only regret is that low ceilings of the venue don’t allow for the usual crowd-surfing that their gigs bring, either from the band or those watching.
With three albums under their belts, there’s very little filler in a Skinny Lister set these days, with only a couple of the ballads giving any respite from the party. Of those, the Lorna-fronted ‘Devil in Me’ is the stand-out with its strong Beautiful South influence.
Indeed, many of the more recent songs take on a life of their own live. It says something that ‘Rollin’ Over’ – the 2012 breakthrough track which is by far and away still their biggest hit on streaming services – is completely dwarfed by the newer songs.
Often it’s the album tracks that really deliver. ‘Cathy’ – which is pure Mumford & Sons on record – becomes a Franz Ferdinand style disco romp live, while ‘Fair Winds & Following Seas’ invokes a huge arms-aloft singalong. Even a new Brexit-themed song with the line “Why do you wanna go and do a thing like that?” fails to dampen the mood.
As is usual at their shows, the band’s flagon full of rum makes its way around and is quickly finished to revitalise those at the front for one last dance. ‘Hamburg Drunk’ brings an accordion-led knees-up, before fan favourite ‘Six Whiskies’ has the whole crowd up on their feet swaying in celebration.
While tonight is a triumph, tomorrow deservedly sees Skinny Lister play The Scala for their biggest ever headline show to finish this run of gigs. For a band that’s always on tour, you can forgive them some time to put their feet up – let’s just hope it’s not for too long.