Band of Skulls is one of the best contemporary rock bands we’ve got. They’re also one of the most underrated. So let’s not bury the lead here: the British trio’s live show is electric, booming, rousing. As the band doled out the first licks from the night’s opener, the cool and confident “In Love by Default,” it was astonishing that Terminal 5 wasn’t completely sold out for a band that’s been in the game 12 years, with four equally impressive albums under their belt. But I digress.
Having not seen the band since their first visit to the States supporting their debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, it was clear that this was an entirely different outfit playing in front of us. Emma Richardson (bass, vocals) and Russell Marsden (guitar, vocals) have more than settled into their co-frontwoman/frontman dynamic, each commandeering his and her respective sides of the stage, while maintaining that pristine harmonization found on record.
But don’t let those harmonies fool you. The band’s riff-heavy cuts were on full display like a beautiful hard-rocking peacock ready to show its colors. The crowd tweaked at the first sounds of a Baby Darling tune – the album’s lead, “Light of the Morning.” While the debut’s additions to the set fared best with the audience (tracks like “Blood,” “Death By Diamonds and Pearls,” and “I Know What I Am” melted faces), new tracks off By Default were also extremely well-received. “Black Magic” put its spell on us, with drummer Matt Hayward beating the hell out of his kit, while headbobbers “Bodies” and “So Good” calcified their cool.
What makes Band of Skulls so well-rounded, though, is the sheer power they carry over to their ballads. Even when playing down-tempo, there was never a chance to turn your back to the stage to grab a fresh beer. The band treated New York to a song they had never played live before, “Honest,” then dove head-first into a calming, from-the-heart rendition of “Cold Fame.” It was a brilliant performance to witness, the kind of live music moment you hope to experience at every show… when everyone is sharing vibes, truly connected, and singing the outro in unison: “Cold fame in my brain, but it’s okay ‘cause I know it’s the best for me.”
To be honest, Band of Skulls could’ve played any combination of tracks that night from any one of their records. The crowd was open to it all; hungry, yet appreciative. Traversing both ends of the spectrum, from emotionally deep and mellow to searing hard rock, the band seemed invincible—convinced, but never cocky. No matter what tempo, song, album or singer took center stage, it was the right call.
Check out my interview with Band of Skulls drummer Matt Hayward and view a couple short clips below!
Band of Skulls, cracking skulls.
Cold Fame. Best.
Band of Skulls kicking ass.