Time can be a cruel lover, especially when it comes to music. While anniversary tours often sound like a good idea at first glance, the concept pursues two very different goals – that is the nature of the animal. The first and most obvious is the opportunity to celebrate an album in all its glory. But working with it and against it at the same time is the second goal: the chance to re-evaluate this record. How well has it aged? Was it really as good as you thought?
With these questions, Thekla is waiting for the last special show of Band Of Skulls on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of their debut album 2009, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. Four more records later, and after parting ways with longtime drummer Matt Hayward in recent years, much has changed since Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson made their first collection of songs a generally positive review a decade ago.
Still, one thing that has remained constant and becomes apparent as soon as they enter the blockbuster opener of the album is the contagious, crackling urgency that makes up the DNA of Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. Just like when the record was released, Light Of The Morning is a muscular call-to-arm that, with its stop-start progress, forces a crowd reaction before turning into its star-spangled banner-esque -Outro unfolds with playful cheerfulness.
Perhaps over the years, the band has gradually developed their blues-enriched guitar rock formula – highlighted at the start of the night by Love Is All You Love from their recently released fifth album of the same name – but their catchy hook ability It has never left production and from the beginning they have the audience in Bristol's most famous venue, a former cargo ship moored in the city's Mud Dock and eating with the palm of its hand.
Everyone has come to a party and that's what they get. Instead of storing the signature track "Death By Diamonds And Pearls" until the encore, as is often the case in their normal set, the recognizable reef arrives on the back of the opener as on the record. It is greeted with more admiration and headbanging as the refrain is sung back with fervor before the thumping, pounding fun of I Know What I Am continues the full gas race.
Band Of Skulls are by no means a trick pony. The sparse, melancholy Fires show their versatility and make those present catch their breath before Marsden and Richardson pull them further with an acoustic interlude. First, we are treated to the breathtaking hometowns that just missed the original album cut, followed by the wonderfully beautiful Honest, while Richardson's tender voice is truly shining through.
While the room is submerged in a false sense of well-being, the double whack of Patterns and Bomb flashes out of the blue as the guitars are plugged back in, injecting a hefty dose of energy before the atmospheric impossible stimulates a crowd to sing along his refrain "I am a man". And when Home Street comes in sight, the harder blood gains momentum to bring Cold Fame closer and give Baby Darling Doll Face Honey Nostalgia a fittingly poignant climax.
But with a smile on Marsden's face, "The Afterparty" soon follows, while Sweet Sour, That's My Trouble, and The Devil Take's Care Of His Own feature a cross-section of the rest of their back catalog. It's an exciting ending to a performance that confirms why Band Of Skulls are so popular. Yes, their debut may not be high on the list of greats, but it does not matter. It caused a sensation in 2009, and if this evidence is correct, it has more than proven itself.