Band Of Skulls @ The Corner, Melbourne (26/07/2012)

Sydney psychadels The Laurels have continued their impressive recent form, and their performance tonight suggests things are continuing to move in the right direction. Not being particularly engaging with the audience, they leave their music to speak for itself, and the early comers are happy to bathe in the haze and swirl that The Laurels produce so well. New material off their debut album Plains is aired, with Changing The Timeline and A Rival looking like set staples for years to come.

Southampton’s Band Of Skulls have found a strong following in Australia since the release of their 2009 album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, and with two sold-out shows at the Corner Hotel on the back of their latest album, Sweet Sour, along with a slot on the Splendour In The Grass festival, it would be fair to say Australian audiences are enjoying what this three-piece have been up to lately.

As the curtain opens and the sold-out crowd buzz with excitement, Russell Marsden, Emma Richardson and Matt Hayward enter the stage to a heroes’ welcome, as Richardson gives a polite “good evening” to the crowd. The familiar opening drum beat and guitar work of Sweet Sour starts the show off in brilliant fashion, with Marsden and Richardson’s interchanging vocals working wonders. The appreciative crowd aren’t bustling for position at all, rather quietly nodding their heads with enjoyment. “We are the Band Of Skulls from Southampton, England,” Marsden declares proudly, or perhaps not to confuse the audience as to the origins of their garage/blues rock sound, which could so easily assumed as hailing from the Southern US heartlands.

Upon Marsden’s unmistakable guitar intro to Wanderluster, the crowd give one of their loudest cheers of the night, while Bomb is performed with an energy and bite that puts the studio version in the shade. Marsden’s abilities on the guitar aren’t to be forgotten, either; there are solos that are busted out on his knees, with the one performed during Blood a particular standout. It’s always a pleasure to be on receiving end of something exclusive, and tonight, as Marsden explains to the audience, “We’ve been touring this record for a long time, so we thought we would play something that we’ve never played before” as he introduces the slow burner Navigate. Given the rendition performed tonight, it’s a wonder why it’s been left off the set list until now.

You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On sees the tempo picked up, while I Know What I Am once again sees Marsden and Richardson’s vocal interplay used with full effect, with Richardson drawing comparisons to our very own Adalita. The unexpected audience sing-along moment of the night comes via Hollywood Bowl, with the audience doing their part with a loud “HEY!” after each short guitar burst, but not before the simplistic White Stripes approach of Light Of The Morning is thrashed out, much to the audience’s approval.

Death By Diamonds and Pearls closes out the main set with distinction, and the calls for an encore don’t need to be chanted for long, as The Devil Takes Care Of His Own is performed with the necessary energy and volume that a lead single should have. Not satisfied with ending their set on this already high note, the brilliant Impossible is given the honours, where the guitar work seamlessly rolls on along with Richardson’s vocals lifting the song to another level. Marsden finishes the song on his knees, fiddling with his guitar pedals to extract every last drop of feedback from his guitar, and using the last reserves of his energy after 90 minutes on stage.

A spirited performance from a band in their prime, Band of Skulls delivered the type of show that is befitting their reputation abroad, demonstrating why Australian audiences are quickly catching on. There were no half measures or sloppy musicianship in any of the songs aired tonight, and in most cases, their songs shine more in the live arena than they do on record. After the welcome Melbourne has given them, let’s hope a return to our shores isn’t too far away.