Deputy Editor Lydia Waller is impressed by the knee-stomping live performance The Skints’ put on at O2 Academy Birmingham
There is no better way to start the week than with a Monday night gig, filled with the sounds of knee-high stomping, to the rhythms of ska, reggae, punk rock and everything in between – exactly what London-based The Skints brought to Birmingham’s O2 Academy. Despite some disappointing mixes at the fault of the venue, the energy and tightness of such an indefinable band over-shadowed these technical issues with ease.
To speak of The Skints’ genre is almost futile, as they redefine whatever they toy with. Dealing mainly with British-reggae and ska, the Swimming Lessons tour demonstrated exactly how the band test boundaries and revive the genres they play with. Their 2011 album Part & Parcel showcased their redefinition of British reggae and ska with pulsing keys, shoulder-shrugging beats and basslines, whereas Swimming Lessons has brought a whole new dynamic to the repertoire of Marcia Richards and co.
The opening number reassured everyone of their silly levels of competence, with ‘Just Can’t No More’ from the earlier Skints days; with Jamie Kyriakides piping up from upstage on the drums carrying honey-toned vocals and Rudge and Richards accompanying with delicious backing harmonies. The 4-piece played to their strengths, engaging the crowd with some old-timers such as ‘Lay You Down’ and the verging-on haunting tones of ‘Restless’ from their 2015 album FM.
Once everyone was warmed up and hypeman/faux-front-man Rudge, had done his introductory stint of ‘The Skints from Landan Taaaa-n,’ the reggae-quartet started feeding in some of their heavier songs from the newly released Swimming Lessons, starting with ‘New Kind of Friend.’ The song demonstrated the more melodious tones of the new album, whereas songs such as ‘Armageddon’, played later in the set, illustrated the slightly more sinister and dub-esque textures to the album.
Richards maintained the integrity of The Skints, multi-playing the keys, drum-pad, flute, saxophone and melodica, sending the crowd into chaos when she whipped out yet another asset in her ridiculous repertoire. Seeing The Skints live not only reassures you of the uniqueness of their dynamic: a singing drummer as a part-time front vocalist; a front woman who sings ethereally, raps tightly and plays everything from melodica to mastering effects; a guitarist, with surprisingly soothing vocals, acting as the main crown-engager and a very aloof but grounding bassist; but also demands you pay attention to some of the thickest lines to their ska tracks.
The temperament of the show varied from minute to minute, going from Rudge dancing in the crowd during their encore cover of Al Greens ‘Let’s Stay Together,’ amidst a flurry of bubbles, to them illustrating their new found hybrid of rock and ska in ‘Learning to Swim’; a track that showcases Richard’s creamy melodies the energy of Rudge in rockier, heavier guitar parts.
Halfway through the set, the infamous track of ‘This Town’ re-asserted their roots and inspiration as a London bred-and-crafted band. However, Rudge took a moment to honour the reggae/ska cultural history of Birmingham, dedicating their ska serenade ‘I’m a Fool’ to recently deceased Ranking Roger, an iconic brummie ska and 2 tone artist.
The Skints shared a genuine excitement to be back in Birmingham, after 12 years of making music together – now reviving their repertoire with rockier tones in their new album, particularly in tracks such as ‘What Did I Learn Today?’.
The evening of buoyant energy concluded with the foregrounding of drummer Kyriakides’ healing vocals, as he came down-stage to serenade the crowd with an acoustic version of ‘Sunny, Sunny,’ a vibing love song full of tropical riffs and harmonies. The final note was an assertion of the new dimensions in their album, with a rendition of their summery track ‘Learning to Swim.’ All though the term is massively over-used in regards to soppy rom-coms and cheesy 80s radio-stations, a night out with The Skints truly is a feel-good experience.