Skinny Lister show why their shanty punk is so infectious - Newcastle gig reviewed

Shanty punk is a term I hadn’t heard before Skinny Lister invented it, but once you’ve heard it, it’s a joyous sound you won’t forget in a hurry.

By Gary Welford
Thursday, 4th April 2019, 11:53 am
Updated Sunday, 7th April 2019, 1:49 pm
Skinny Lister at the Riverside, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.
Skinny Lister at the Riverside, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

The London six-piece are on the second leg of a UK tour promoting their latest album, The Story is…, which came out last month, and if the show they put on at the Riverside in Newcastle last night is anything to go by, audiences are in for a treat.

Formed around the London folk scene 10 years ago, Skinny Lister have been through several line-up changes, but retain four original members – effervescent singer Lorna Thomas, her brother Max on accordion, Sam Brace on guitar, and co-vocalist Dan Heptinstall.

Skinny Lister at the Riverside, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

They’re joined these days by Scott Milsom on bass and double bass, and Thom Mills on drums, and together they create a very fine racket indeed.

They’re labelmates of Frank Turner, and if you enjoy the music of The Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang, this is a band you should make time to listen to.

First up, however, the supporting cast, and what a line-up. Opening proceedings was Milwaukee singer-songwriter Trapper Schoepp, who, like Skinny Lister, is on Xtra Mile Recordings.

His set of acoustic Americana slipped down nicely as the room filled up, and the highlight of his set included Freight Train and the unfinished Bob Dylan song On, Wisconsin, for which he wrote music and additional lyrics.

Skinny Lister at the Riverside, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Next up were The Wood Burning Savages, a Derry punk band who 6 Music presenter Tom Robinson described as “the most amazing live band I have seen all year”.

He’s not far wrong, as the four-piece positively blazed through an incendiary set made up of tracks taken from their debut album Stability, which came out last year.

Highlights included the title track, Sisters Of Mercy and Freedom Of Movement. I hadn’t heard of them before this gig, but I think I’m going to be listening to their album a lot.

Time then for the main attraction, and from the moment Skinny Lister came on stage, with Lorna clutching their trademark flagon of rum they had the crowd eating out of their hands.

The Wood Burning Savages at the Riverside, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

They smashed through a 90-minute set of songs taken from all four of their albums, kicking off with 38 Minutes, the lead single from the new record.

It’s the true story of how, for that terrifying amount of time, the people of Hawaii were on the alert for an imminent nuclear attack , and assured that it was not a drill.

It was one of a handful of tracks from the new album which got an airing, and like Rattle & Roar, My Distraction, Second Amendment and My Life, My Architecture, it went down a storm.

The mixed-age crowd, which ranged from teenagers to grandparents, lapped up the new material, but it was the old favourites like George’s Glass, Forty Pound Wedding, Bold As Brass, John Kanaka and Rollin’ Over which prompted the biggest singalongs.

Skinny Lister at the Riverside, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.

Injuries was devoted to the band’s merch man, who’d had a run-in with a plate-glass door, while Geordie Lad saw Lorna depart the stage to dance in the crowd, and end up on someone’s shoulders.

She showed they can handle more traditional folk numbers too with heartfelt renditions of Colours and Bonny Away, which were a welcome change of pace from the general freneticism of a Skinny Lister live show.

But she was in the crowd again, this time surfing over their heads, during Trouble On Oxford Street, the climax of a three-song encore which culminated with all the support acts and a couple of crowd members on stage for a riotous conclusion.

It was a tremendous end to a show which was a real feelgood event from start to finish. If you haven’t discovered Skinny Lister, I’d thoroughly recommend giving their infectious brand of shanty punk a try.

Skinny Lister at the Riverside, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.
Trapper Schoepp at the Riverside, Newcastle. Pic: Gary Welford.