Skids plus Duncan Reid and the Big Heads 9.10.2021 O2 Academy Islington
A rousing nostalgic blast with a few more recent additions to the set made this my gig of the year so far – gig 25 of 2021. My ears are ringing and heading home happy on the scenic (slow) train route.
After first seeing The Skids in 1980 at the wonderful and now bulldozed Hammersmith Palais, since their reformation I have become more of a Skids regular, assisted by the shared enthusiasm of gig buddy Dave (DPi). The variety of venues has included their Dunfirmline home gig; Butlins Minehead; acoustic set at St George’s (blog), Bristol; Belfast Limelight; the Royal Albert Hall Pete Shelley memorial gig and the London Roundhouse.
This trip to the O2 Academy Islington features Glasto Nige, Andy (AMu) and Dave (DPi),(Gaz joined us later), who’s sorted us soundcheck entry at 5pm, after a swift Camden ale in the Steam Passage Tavern round the corner.
Interesting seeing a venue empty aside from about 10 of us and the band.
A chance to have a chat with old granite jaw himself – lead singer Richard Jobson, and original bassist Bill Simpson. There’s a few insights into the set which features some tracks from their recent covers album Songs from the Enchanted Ballroom. The Clash classic Complete Control (link to recent Skids version) is part of the soundcheck along with David Essex’s Rock On (!). Hurry on Boys and Melancholy Soldiers also get a rehearsal. Everyone’s happy. All set.
I bought a copy of Jobson’s new illustrated Skids story which he signed.
A few pics and we are led out to return later for the show.
We hadn’t bargained on the Covid entry checks fouling up the return later quite so well. A long queue was forming and O2 priority suspended. NHS Covid App checks and initial ticket scanning then moved on to a body search by a latex glove clad woman politely offering the 95 percent bloke audience a male alternative if required. Everyone seemed quite happy with the arrangement. We’re in. No… another proper ticket scan. More hasty fumbling.
By this time Duncan Reid and the Bigheads are half way through their set. Shame. I really like their latest album, Don’t Blame Yourself, and they are playing several from that. I’ll have to catch them again sometime – I did see them at Butlins Alternative festival in Minehead just before Lockdown last year and saw Duncan’s old band The Boys back in 1980, supporting The Ramones. Also he guested at the Eddie and the Hot Rods last stand I came to at this very venue.
A chilling blast of air funnels comes down from the ceiling vents. I’m not sure if this is anti-virus bonus ventilation or we are being sprayed with everyone’s germs. The beers are flowing and we have a good central spot so we just shift a shade out of the main icy blast and assume all is fine.
O2 Academy Islington
The O2 Academy Islington is in the midst of a small shopping centre just over from Angel tube station. It’s a very modern place that holds 800, all standing with a bar either side. There’s nothing particularly appealing about it. A bit concrete and industrial unit feel.
There’s an upstairs bar on a balcony but unless you are leaning on the rail it’s hard to view a gig from up there. There are some seats in the bar but not that you can see from. There is also a second smaller gig room but I’ve never been in.
As with many O2 Academies it’s worth checking stage times as they have a habit of early curfews so the place can have a second sitting as a nightclub. What you have got when you leave though is a fantastic range of pubs and eateries, including Slim Jim’s Liquor Saloon up the High Street on the left – it was rocking – live music and DJ til late.
Aside from the Eddie and the Hot Rods gig I’ve only been to this O2 a few other times, for The Comsat Angels (remember them?) and The Wedding Present.
Jobson bounds on with what is now most of Big Country – Mark Brzezicki on drums, Jamie and dad Bruce Watson guitars – and Skids original Bill Simpson on bass, with a young keyboardist I don’t know (Rory Cowieson I was advised later.. cheers). Animation to start.
Of one Skin next. A few plastic pints go flying, Jobson is dancing already – ‘Strictly’, come and get him – the guitars are off. What a fabulous noise.
Jobbo is a great between song raconteur, looking back at appearing on Top of the Pops with Jimmy Sa-vile as Charade is introduced.
Before early punk classic Charles Jobson reflects that it’s a fine moment to remember the man we lost who wrote it: Stuart Adamson. Warm cheers.
The Saints are Coming next. Covered by Green Day and U2, used by Southampton FC, this should have made them millions but much of the royalties went to a charitable venture – Jobson grimaces playfully.
While the Skids are still essentially a nostalgia trip the 2017 release World on Fire is another worthy late addition to the back catalogue and Kings of the New World Order is a natural rabble rousing choice, before one of my favourites – the urgent cries of Out of Town. The set is a belter.
My 25th gig of the year, is the best so far: Saturday night, air punching punk and post-punk classics blasted out at volume to beaming men in their late 50s with a wall of Watson guitars. I have my muso ear plugs to hand but just thought bugger it, you don’t get many nights like this – let it rip through me. I didn’t go chasing any photos either, just stood centrally and took a few zoom and phone snaps – another time. I left with some snapped reminders that I was here.
The unmistakable opening synth of Working for the Yankee Dollar gets a roar. The classics keep coming and I didn’t note them all: Happy to be With You; Circus Games; Into the Valley – Jobbo’s still skipping and dancing like he’s training for the big fight in Vegas later.
A few covers in the set and hearing Pretty Vacant live is quite something and a Pete Shelley tribute What do I Get?
TV Stars – the dreadful b-side that slipped into Skids folklore can’t be avoided with all it’s air punching ‘Al-bert Tat-lock’ chants.
The last Skids number of this 90 minute set is Olympian from the Days in Europa album but the parting gift is an encore of The Clash’s Complete Control, which features on the recent Skids covers album Songs from a Haunted Ballroom. Brilliant.
Great night. We are all too soon being ushered out as the plastic glasses are collected and the venue is tidied for the next sitting.
See you in Glasgow boys.. later in the year.