Band of Skulls: O2 Brixton Academy, London – live reviewBand of Skulls
O2 Brixton Academy
7th December 2012

Band of Skulls have supported some big names in the past, including The Black Keys and The Dead Weather, but playing a headline show at Brixton Academy is by far their biggest gig yet. Nyika Suttie was there to see it.

Hailing from Southampton, Band of Skulls have been everywhere recently, so it was high time they played their own headline shows, culminating in playing the last show of their current album, Sweet Sour, at the mighty Brixton Academy. The long haired trio, comprised of guitarist Russell Marsden, Bassist Emma Richardson and Drummer Matt Hayward, have had many a positive live review and having been to far too many folk gigs of late, I was excited to go and see some proper indie rock music. I wasn’t disappointed.

First though, came Folks, a six-piece band from North-West England, who struck me as an eclectic bunch on first appearance. There was more than a hint of the Gallagher brothers about a couple of them, although that could just be the hair, ears and wearing of a coat on stage by the lead singer, and for a brief moment I wondered whether we were going to have to endure some kind of Oasis tribute act. Thankfully they proved me very, very wrong, playing a tight set of powerful guitar-lead indie rock with an assertive bass line. When they finished playing there were several murmurs of approval coming from the crowd, everyone seemingly pleasantly surprised to have such a good support. They’re a relatively young band and I reckon they’re going to be big once they really get going. The lead singer really should take his coat off on stage though, or he won’t feel the benefit when he goes out for a fag.

The gig didn’t actually sell out, but by the time it Band of Skulls’ set was nearing, it would be hard to realise that, with those of us near the front being squeezed nearer and nearer to the barrier as the room filled up with people. There were several false starts as people got a little bit over-excited every time an interval song finished, but finally Band of Skulls took to the stage, launching into the title song from their album, “Sweet Sour”.


The band are very heavily influenced by blues and classic rock and this delivers some excellent head banging music, there’s really no other way to dance to it (although some people nearer the middle were having a damn good try at dancing “properly”, which was fairly amusing to watch). For a band of three members, they make a lot of noise, and they’re actually surprisingly heavy live compared to their recorded material, embarrassingly I found myself pulling my “bass face” more than once. The set list was comprised of a good mix of songs from Sweet Sour as well as their debut album, Baby Darling Dollface Honey, with particular crowd favourites including “You’re not pretty but you got it going on”, “I know what I am” and the mighty “Death by Diamonds and Pearls” being played before the encore. The latter was a particular highlight for me, with most of the crowd singing along and just generally loving it.

The band do give off a massive aura of cool, but they genuinely seemed thrilled to playing at Brixton, often clapping the audience at times, which was a nice role reversal. Marsden is an incredibly versatile guitarist, the sounds he can’t make with a guitar and pedals are probably not worth making. At the end of the encore he could be seen crouched on the floor playing with the guitar pedals for long after his band mates had left the stage, finally looking up and realising that he was the last one on stage. Amazing. As a band, Band of Skulls are really very good at improvisation and they know how to break an song down just as well as they know the value of a good “cliché” mash up ending. Suffice to say, I was really impressed. I was also really impressed by the lighting, strips of round lights and some very bright strobe lights worked really well in time with the music and added more to the experience than lighting usually does.

Somehow or other I’ve not managed to go to a gig at Brixton Academy before, and because I’m in the minority here, I probably don’t need to say what an amazing venue it is. The sloping floors mean that even people as short as me can see the stage wherever they stand. This needs to be a feature in far more places, there’s really nothing worse than going to see a band and only being able to see the back of someone’s T shirt or screens. I was also surprised at how big the Academy is, I was one of the first people in and it was quite overwhelming to see this big hall stretch out before me, split by crush barriers and moodily lit. Beer and cider costs around £4.50 a pint, which is fairly typical of a London gig venue, and the usual O2 fare is offered. The cloakroom is £2 an item and operates on a strange system of initials, although this seemed to work better than I expected it too. Anyway, enough of the technical stuff.

Band of Skulls are now off to record a new album, which I already can’t wait to hear. When they do go on tour again, be sure to catch them, they’ve been rising steadily for a few years now and can only get bigger from here on in.

Band of Skulls are also on Facebook and Twitter.

All words by Nyika Suttie. More writing by Nyika can be found in her author archive here. Nyika also write on her website Outsider Looking Out & is on twitter as @puzzledbyadream .

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By day somebody who makes maps, by night a very amateur music journalist, I am a life long lover of music, despite having no musical talent beyond appreciation. I once wanted to be a news journalist but discovered I was too nice so started writing about music instead. Thankfully my musical tastes have moved on from the 2006 indie of my teenage years and include most things that involve folk, punk, ska and, yes, indie (often all at once). Other hobbies include reading in coffee shops, cycling, making things and just generally being unwittingly pretentious.


  1. Amazing is not a term I would use to desrcibe the Brixton Academy. There are a lot nicer larger venues and I’ve always found the sound there a bit iffy (though its not as bad as the Kentish Town Forum), it was terrible for Buzzcocks “Back To Front” gig earlier in the year.


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