Live: Skinny Lister @ Academy Islington

English folk/pop/punk outfit Skinny Lister released their second album Down On Deptford Broadway in late April. The band, who are a staple ingredient at a number of UK festivals and who have picked up airplay on both 6Music and XFM, have been touring the UK in support of the new record and played to a sold out O2 Academy Islington crowd on May 7th.

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

I must be honest and admit that I was a bit late to the Skinny Lister party, both metaphorically and literally. I didn’t really know their music, other than to be peripherally aware that they were kind of like an English version of the Pogues, and the phasing of the traffic lights on the Marylebone Road (which displayed a greater dedication to red than the rest of the country this Election night) resulted in an arrival time that coincided with the departure of the first support. Shame.

Sean McGowan performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

Sean McGowan performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

I did however arrive in time to see the second support slot, Seán McGowan. McGowan, who has the kind of name that makes a hard of hearing Pogues fan sit up and take notice, is Hampshire’s answer to Billy Bragg. Raised in Southampton, he found his inspiration looking out over the Solent rather than Barking Creek, and with a solitary acoustic guitar he sang songs of working class struggle in a world of too much privilege and poverty. Unlike Bragg, McGowan doesn’t yet possess a massive house surrounded by a 6ft high wall that keeps the riff-raff out, but he does at least have a welcome sense of humour and self-deprecation: “This is a song about getting barred from the pub where I now clean the toilets. That f*cking showed them.” It’s hard not to like Seán McGowan and the welcoming and inclusive Skinny Lister crowd made no effort not to.

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

All decent folk bands are a fair size it seems, and Skinny Lister are no exception. A six-piece, five of them form an impenetrable line at the front of the stage, with drummer Thom Mills cast adrift in isolation at the back. We’re in the upstairs part of the Islington venue and the stage area is not voluminous. Skinny Lister should be in grave danger of treading on each other’s toes, but despite a manic stage presence nobody trips over anybody else. They’re obviously well versed in their antics. Sporting a fair sized flagon of rum with ‘Property of Skinny Lister’ written on the side, leading lady Lorna Thomas proceeded to offer the contents to the front row of the audience. It’s an inclusive act and I get the feeling from the off that we’re all in this one together.

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

That feeling was reinforced when the band kicked off the show with Raise A Wreck, first track from the new record, and everybody simultaneously went bananas. Skinny Lister played a set that drew equally from both the new record and the 2012 debut, Forge And Flagon. The new material was clearly well known to the audience, who didn’t let up in their enthusiasm or commitment to bellow the lyrics at any point. Indeed, at times this felt less like a traditional gig and more like a house party where nobody had to worry about spilling red wine on the carpet. By mid-point in proceedings, Seán McGowan returned to the stage for a lager fueled sing-a-long and double bass player Michael Camino demonstrated his trust in the party-goers with an extended crowd surf around the room. And obviously not wishing to be parted from his instrument, he took it with him.

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

The music was infectious and fast with songs such as If The Gaff Don’t Let Us Down and John Kanaka getting a riotous reception, but there was time for more reflective material too. Lorna Thomas might be an enthusiastic party reveller on stage, but songs such as Bonny Away revealed a subtlety and depth to her performance that was a joy to behold.

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

The best part of twenty songs and ninety minutes later it was all over and comparative calm returned to the somewhat antiseptic environment of the O2 Academy Islington. If the thought of traditional folk music, or watching musicians playing odd shaped guitars with the wrong number of strings is not your thing; whatever you do, do not allow these feelings to prevent you from checking Skinny Lister live. They are a blast and I would defy anybody not to have a great time in their company. I may have come late to this party, but I will certainly be attending again.

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

Skinny Lister performing at The O2 Academy Islington on 7 May 2015 (Simon Reed)

Photographs & Review by Simon Reed. Skinny Lister at O2 Academy Islington on 07/05/15.

Simon has his own great site here: www.musicalpictures.co.uk

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and the whole set here: http://rockshot.photoshelter.com/gallery/Skinny-Lister/G0000USf8GMA8Tk4

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