Words + Photos by Frank Ralph

The atmosphere in the Manchester Academy was electric as the crowd waited for returning heroes Skunk Anansie to play a career spanning mega set.

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Opening act Queen Zee, from Liverpool, played a fantastic set which was full of energy, and was actually a lot heavier than I remember them being from the last time I saw them. Their exuberance and attitude went across really well and packed a punch. They set the tone for the night and the audience seemed to enjoy it as much as the band did.

Everyone was in a great mood from the outset anyway with the prospect of seeing Skunk Anansie’s return to Manchester. They don’t look or sound like a band 2 and a half decades into their career, in fact they have more energy than many bands half their age and they sound, as they always did, as fresh, modern and relevant as a band with a grudge against the system should.

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Skin is the most iconic of front women and floats around the stage like a lightweight boxer searching for the knockout blow as Ace, Cass and drummer Mark produce some of the fiercest music around. They’re having fun and it’s infectious.

What 25 years in the game has given them is an absolute beast of a back catalogue that they can delve into to produce a set that bangs from start to finish. From the opener Charlie Big Potato, through the left/right combo of Weak following Twisted (Everyday Hurts) to the culmination of a career spanning set with Little Baby Swastikkka. Her voice soars with ease and fills every corner of the venue with its gloriousness.

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Skin’s fashion is as on point as always too, apparently bringing back famous outfits from the past she appears in a shredded silver costume that looks just fantastic, this gives way to a Grace Jones-esque shiny jacket with huge pointy shoulders and later the black feathers that adorn the cover of the new live album 25LIVE@25 make an appearance.

The last time they were in Manchester was a mere 3 days after the arena attack and Skin remembers that show as one of the best they’ve ever played putting down to the sheer feeling of defiance from the Manchester crowd that they wouldn’t be beaten by fear. She sees love, power and unity in the crowd tonight and dedicate several tracks to the audience but not before having told her gimp roadie King Arthur to f@*k off – a chant repeated by the crowd every time he appeared on stage.

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They demonstrate how versatile they are as a band by flitting effortlessly between aggression, power and beauty with tracks like Hedonism, Tear the Place Up and Secretly creating a hefty, more than value for money set.

With a couple of trips into the audience Skin really connects with the fans. She’s an icon and a hero to many in the venue tonight, and with many of those originals bringing their offspring to these shows to enjoy the experience together the band will rightfully gain a whole new group of fans, and with dates running to the beginning of September you have plenty of chances to witness this special show for yourself.

See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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