The temperature had just dropped to -1° Celcius as I arrived at the venue. A brass monkey wandered across the quad, looking for a welding torch. Hoping to find warmth inside, I found the venue wasn’t feeling exactly tropical either. How would I get warmed up? Enter Skinny Lister…
The band have been around since 2009 and have five studio albums to their name, all of which provided material for the evening’s shindig. They played many live shows (17 shows in this UK tour after just returning from 11 shows in Germany in Switzerland) and were once crowned “Hardest Working Band in the UK” by PRS. I was looking forward to seeing how they performed live. Does all their hard graft show in their performance?
The band poured themselves on stage and immediately ripped into “Wanted”. It was abundantly clear that this was a band with a healthy dose of energy. Max Thomas leapt across the pit with his melodeon to lean into the crowd, singing and playing. Lorna Thomas swirled and spun around the stage as she sang, like a firework uncertain of its final destination.
This level of excitement and physical exuberance continued through “George’s Glass” and “Tragedy in a Minor”. I had never seen someone play the double bass above their head before. Scott Milsom demonstrated how to do it. At one point, I thought he might take out the lighting rig. Things calmed slightly as “Rattle & Roar” was presented to the crowd. I was certainly warming up by this point. The energy from the stage, mixed with bouncing fans, raised the temperature.
Lorna Thomas delivered a beautiful rendition of “What Can I Say” from the 2015 album “Down on Deptford Broadway”. It allowed the band to show their mellow side and their musicianship. There’s nowhere to hide on a track like this. We were also treated to hearing some new material. “Make It A Mantra” and “Company at the Bar” are certainly worthy of recording. Perhaps 2023 will see a sixth album surface. We will see…
Party George, the father of Lorna and Max, joined the band on stage to sing “William Harker”. He was having a whale of a time, as were the band. He certainly didn’t seem out of place in the spotlight. A sixth band member on the cards, perhaps? After rapturous applause from the crowd, Lorna Thomas reappeared from backstage with several ‘family’ measures of spirits to share with some lucky folks in the audience. I knew I should have gotten to the front!
It was evident throughout the night that Skinny Lister has a very loyal and appreciative fan base. They sang along and danced throughout. The band appear to have a personal connection with the fans. It is not something you often see in music these days. Very refreshing. And the strange band name? If you were wondering, it has nothing to do with Bob Mortimer. It was the nickname of someone band member Dan Heptinstall went to school with. Wonder if that person knows doctors and dentists?
Unsurprisingly, “Geordie Lad’ got a warm reception from the Newcastle crowd. It helps that it is a song to get you jumping about like a loon. The audience also lent their voices to “Damn the Amsterdam”, a rollicking good sea shanty – the crowd taking the place of The Longest Johns, who feature on the recorded version on the album “A Matter of Life & Love”.
Throughout the set, band members careered about on stage. Lorna Thomas disappeared into the crowd to dance along with them. Milsom got his workout in by throwing his double bass about like it was weightless. Tim Hillsdon, the newest band member – joining them in August this year, bashed out driving rhythms but showed his gentler side when needed. He reminds me of Andrew Rankin, drummer with The Pogues. Heptinstall constantly pulsed and bounded like a blond Joe Strummer. The song “This Is War” has a feel of “Sally MacLennane” in the verses and “London Calling” in the chorus. Not the worst combination, in my view. Max Thomas can be best described as someone who is fuelled on Pro-Plus and Red Bull. How he manages to expend so much energy whilst still being able to play an instrument and sing is anyone’s guess. He bounced from the stage to the crowd barrier all night – like an excited kangaroo on hot coals.
The last song of the night saw the stage flooded as support act Berries, merch guru Ben, and several others joined the band in a rousing rendition of “Six Whiskies”. Top marks go to Lorna Thomas for grabbing a young lad out of the audience to join them. It was his 13th birthday, and one he will not forget. Happy Birthday, Connor! I know he has good taste in music – I saw him at a Ferocious Dog gig a few weeks earlier.
So, had I defrosted after such a cold start to the night? Not only was I thermally warm, but my heart and soul was also. What Can I Say? If you can, catch them on one of their remaining dates. You’ll thank me.
Tragedy in a Minor
Rattle & Roar
Arm Wrestling in Dresden
Make It A Mantra
If the Gaff Don’t Let Us Down
What Can I Say
William Harker (with Party George)
Company at the Bar
Damn the Amsterdam
Bold as Brass
This Is War
Trouble on Oxford Street