It's enough to to give you the willies. Silhouetted against a screen that stretches across the entire stage, three figures appear with the menacing shapes of a gangster, a vampire and some kind of bat/crow hybrid. The figures, when the screen drops, turn out to be the majority of Brit-rock veterans Skunk Anansie.
Boasting one of the most exciting and enduring sounds to come out of the Nineties (not to mention sales of more than five million records), this is the last night of their UK comeback tour after more than ten years apart – and what a way to return.
Now, after a decade of solo projects and a seven-year stint in Feeder for drummer Mark Richardson, SA are promoting their new album, Wonderlustre, along with last year's greatest hits, Smashes and Trashes. Dressed in a black skin-tight, faux-leather jumpsuit teamed with huge feathery shoulder pads, frontwoman Skin is awarded a hero's welcome home (she grew up in Brixton) as she prowls the stage, spitting the lyrics to the raging opener "Yes It's Fucking Political".
Skilfully weaving lesser-known tracks (including the wonderfully named "Charlie Big Potato") with a long list of memorable hits – just as masterfully as Skin's distinctive voice moves between beautiful, gentle melodies and piercing almost-screams – every song reinstates SA as the kings (and almighty queen) of peripheral pop music. New track "The Sweetest Thing" boasts an impressive bluesy tangent before Skin launches into the audience to stand on a sea of fans for "Weak".
"Brazen (Weep)", from one of the Nineties' most remarkable albums Stoosh, follows, and every song after is made even more potent through the passion of each performance. It looks unstoppable – until the encore. The showmanship fades as the band strike up a matey relationship with the crowd, and play the only ordinary song of the night – newbie "You Saved Me". It's all very heartwarming, but it's a damp end to such a stormy show.