Skin - Manchester Academy 3 -6.09.03

The last time Skin played this venue was back in 1995. In those days of course it was known as the Hop & Grap and at the time she was playing with Skunk Anansie who were about to have their first Top 40 hit. After the band split and Skin went solo it's as if she's started at the bottom rung again and is in that difficult stage of re-establishing herself. With two singles and an album under her belt Skin's had moderate success in the UK, but has fared a lot better over in Europe.

After a few low key dates in London, Skin has undertaken her first headline tour of the UK dressed smartly in a dapper black trouser suit with a short cropped hair style replacing the outright skinhead look of yesteryear. Skin looks a picture of health with a flawless complexion and trim theatre. A solid competent, but workman group of session musicians join her on the tiny, yet strangely cosy stage. As expected many of the finest cuts from her "Fleshwounds" album are given the live treatment improving on the recorded versions by possessing a lot more energy, vitality and edginess. Debut single "Trashed" and the vitriolic "You've Made Your Bed" evoke the most appreciative response. It's the unexpected gems that elevate this gig from the predictable album promotion process. A rocked up version of Electronics "Getting Away With It" is given the perverse sexual connotation by a highly suggestive interpretation. An even slower version of Skunk's "Weak" is greeted like the great alternative rock ballad it is. More of her former bands material is dusted down and given a new lease of life like their later single "Charlie Big Potato".

Skin still remains one of the most  original, striking and unforgettable performers around at the moment. She describes how her new songs are about relationships and while not as ferocious as her former band, her forthright and outspoken views on sexual politics still pack a punch. After a short encore Skin and her band return for an acoustic "Hedonism" and a very loud and heavy "Twisted" which then morphs naturally into Blondie's "Heart Of Glass". Sweat is dripping from the ceiling as the surprisingly young crowd make their way home. We don't' want to admit it's all over, but the fans and enigmatic Skin are glowing after a tour-de-force performance. She may have been away in the musical wilderness for the past three years, but as tonight has proved Skin is back and is better than ever.

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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