Skin - Manchester Academy 3 - 21.3.06

You always see a diverse mix of people at Skin gigs like lesbian and gay couples, punks, goths, students and rock fans. Skin is like an unofficial ambassador for people who feel like they don't fit in and are different. Surprisingly the relatively small Academy 3 hasn't sold out, but there's more than enough people here to welcome the ferociously fun solo artiste.

The last thing you'd expect from Skin is predictability, but that's exactly what she delivers in tonight's performance. Anyone who saw here late last year on tour will be familiar with the set list which is almost identical to the one she's playing now. The jumping into the crowd, flirting with the fans at the front, her image and banter with the musicians on stage hasn't changed since her Skunk Anansie days in 1995 except when she toured her debut solo album in 2003 with a mellower more reflective side. Thankgod then for her new album "Fake Chemical State", which is Skin's finest work to date. She may be approaching forty, but my word Skin has the energy of a woman half her age.

"Alone In My Room" showcases the guitar hero of the future, the one and only Elliot King, Skin desperately tries to create a more lively atmosphere suggesting that the fans dance around but they seem quite content to jostle around a bit and cheer triumphantly. "Faithfulness" from "Fleshwounds" is a dark delving insight into Skin's psyche while a slowed down, bluesy take on "Weak" gives the song even more resonance. "I Don't Need A Reason" and "Moving On" are two great rock gems from the new album. The crowd singalong to "Charlie Big Potatoes" and appreciate the semi-acoustic of "Hedonism". Best track of the night is the catchiest heavy song "Take Me On" which has a chorus to rival Blur's "Song 2" with a wonderful bass solo from John Blackburn.

A cover of Electronic's "Getting Away With It" has now become a live favourite and has a veneer of urgency about it, but Skin finishes a fiendishly short set (barely over an hour if that) with an old Skunk Anansie single "I Can Dream" which is a much welcome blast from the past with the sensually ambiguous invitation from Skin that she'll be your sailor girl.

You can't knock the quality of the songs or the performance, but a few more surprises next time wouldn't go amiss.

Nicholas Paul Godkin
Photos: Shirlaine Forrest

Click here to leave your Skin comments on the Message Board
(NB: The message board opens in a new window so please disable your pop-up blocker to view)