Band Of Skulls At The Mayan Theatre, Sunday October 6th 2019
When the sound stopped suddenly and the lights went dark in the middle of the song ‘Dull Gold Heart’, Band of Skulls‘ frontman Russell Marsden told us that the exact same thing had happened when they played at the Wiltern a few years ago. ‘It must be some British statics’, he added. Band of Skulls may be from Southampton, but they have adopted Los Angeles as a second home, and their show at the Mayan theatre was the last one of their US tour before going back to the UK.
With 5 albums under their belt, they were not particularly promoting their latest album ‘Love Is All You Love’ released earlier this year, but rather celebrating the 10th anniversary of their first record, ‘Baby Darling Doll Face Honey’, playing seven songs from it during a rather long set. There has been a change in the trio with now Julian Dorio filling in for Matt Hayward on drums, but guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson still shared the vocals with intact chemistry.
At the Mayan theatre, they played 23 songs, brushing their catalog with ease, and interrupting the loudness by an acoustic mini-set of two songs, ‘something special’ as they called it, which brought a touch of intimacy as they were standing next to each other, closer than they had ever been during the entire show. Minus their thunderous guitars and aggressive basslines, this quiet moment revealed the folk melancholia at the core of some of their compositions, and it certainly was a treat for the adoring fans.
Another UK band called Demob Happy opened the show with a crashing and aggressive hard-rocking sound, super loud guitars, smashing drumming and some Queens-of-the-Stone-Age-like riffs, but they could nevertheless take some unfamiliar detours and leave you a bit puzzled at defining their exact sound. Singer and bassist Matt Marcantonio had these distinct vocals dominating their loudness while they were going for full rock arena anthems with their furious screamed harmonies and metal headbangs. They have supported Jack White in 2018 during the UK leg of his Boarding House Reach tour, so this may tell you something about their rocking potential and full-force decibel level.
Band of Skulls began their set with the title track of ‘Love Is All You Love’, a generous declaration for our troubled times, and starting from this, they almost never slowed down, rocking even harder on the second song ‘You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On’ with its fast blues-rock accelerations, sledgehammer drums and big choruses above distorted guitar solos. The energy got very high, reaching cathartic levels, and a few songs saw the two of them running the stage at each corner while triggering big enthusiastic responses from the crowd. During many songs, the driving bluesy guitar/bass duo could sound like Jack White or the Black Keys at their most furious moments – they probably have heard these comparisons a million times – but their female-male vocal harmonies were often too poppy to stay on this same spot, as the trio installed a rich balance between furious gratty blues, stomping numbers, and sweet melodies.
They certainly had the tunes, memorable and catchy, as songs like ‘Light of the Morning’ and ‘Death by Diamonds and Pearls’ were sang along by the crowd cheering up at the loudness of the riffs, while the stomping ‘I Know What I Am’ brought pure joy and ‘Fires’ showcased their vocal harmonies with a less noisy wall of sound.
Meanwhile, you can’t accuse them to ignore drama as there was a sweaty and aggressive passion spilled all over their songs while the execution could not have been tighter, with its series of stop-and-starts, visceral punches, crushing chords, poignant moments and even some bombast during songs like ‘Impossible’
The quiet ‘Cold Fame’ contrasted with the bright shout-out of ‘Sweet Sour’ and its Beatlesque flavor, but I surely preferred them at their loud moments, especially when the music delivered hard rock or even metal-worthy riffs. A giant disco ball reflecting thousands of flying rays of lights dropped over the stage during their most dancing songs such as ‘Himalyan’ which delivered its touch of funk guitars.
While they only played a few songs of the new album, they closed with the first track of ‘Love Is All You Love’, ‘Carnivorous’ a dance-y departure from their usual bluesy-heavy-riffs material, but still bringing an eruption of joy from the audience, especially when Russell and Emma finished the song in the middle of the crowd.
Band of Skulls is a lovely band to watch perform, they place an intense concentration on their music while bringing simple joy,… maybe because their hooks sound instantaneously familiar, but probably because they played them with a loving benevolence.
Love Is All You Love
You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On
Light of the Morning
Death by Diamonds and Pearls
I Know What I Am
Dull Gold Heart
That’s My Trouble
The Devil Takes Care of His Own
Asleep at the Wheel