Tonight, we are beckoned into The Globe by the sound of sea shanties, chanted with the kind of gusto last heard off some drunken Cornish port in the 1800s. There must be cultural historians out there with less knowledge of the humble sailors’ merry incantation than Bristol’s The Longest Johns who use their know-how to deliver authentic renditions of What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor, recent viral wonder-song The Wellerman and latest single, Stan Rogers cover The Mary Ellen Carter.
And they are purely appetiser for the main focus of the night, London’s Skinny Lister, as singer/guitarist Daniel Heptinstall and exuberant co-vocalist Lorna Thomas take the stage flanked by their guitarist and double bassist in short sleeved rockabilly shirts.
The tour is to promote new album ‘A Matter of Life & Love’ but the 90 minute set revisits their entire catalogue, getting the crowd moving from the off with tunefully rowdy, Frank Turner folk ‘Wanted’ from 2016s ‘The Devil, The Heart & The Fight’. Scott Milsom wields his double bass over his head for the first of many times and Sam “mule” Brace puts down his guitar and juts his concertina out toward the front row before the entire group (drummer excluded), go at their instruments and have a dance, stood in a perfect battalion row, front of stage, ready to attack the rest of their songs with what seems like a truly fun-loving glee.
Audience interaction is high on the agenda as the band regale several tales behind songs. Ska-jump-a-long Bavaria Area, they tell, is about their past interaction with the Bavarian police, a birthday dedication and a request for fans to send in home made footage of them jumping, fully clothed, on a trampoline so that their pianist, Maxwell Thomas, can make a video for their new album’s Madness inspired title track. Before jig concerto Forty Pound Wedding, Lorna proudly informs her audience that her father George Thomas wrote the song.
The Longest Johns join Skinny Lister for self-penned shanty Damn the Amsterdam, which turns out to be the utter highlight of the evening, causing the entire room to erupt in grog fuelled cheering, before launching seemlessly into My Distraction from 2019’s album ‘The Story Is…’ After this orgy of nautical ska merriment Heptinstall declares the Cardiff crowd as “teetering on the edge of the most danceable crowd of the tour” and before anyone has a chance to find their feet again Sam Brace grabs the mic for their veteran live favourite John Kanaka, producing football chant levels of hollering from the watching devotees.
A hush descends as Thomas explains the last time she played Cardiff she was pregnant and now her child is asleep down the road, dedicating Gretna Green inspired Irish Trad number ‘Bonny Away’ to her father, currently babysitting said daughter. When the song ends the band gather at the front of the stage to take a selfie with grinning fans in the background. It’s claimed the pic is for Lorna’s father but it ends up on Instagram all the same.
The Clash-esque rabble of Trouble On Oxford Street brings the metaphorical curtain down on the set, next to an arms in the air dancing This Is War, and the six sailory-punk rockers exit the stage.
Raise a Wreck, another monumental shanty, and Hamburg Drunk, Skinny Lister at their clean-cut Pogues pinnacle define the encore, with The Longest Johns appearing again from the wings to pack out the already heaving stage and bring the night to a swaying, celebratory end with Six Whiskies.
“What shall we do with a drunken sailor?” Send that staggering shipmate on to a Skinny Lister gig for the time of their pissed-up sea-dog life.
Skinny Lister’s latest album ‘A Matter of Life & Love’ is out now and their tour is ongoing. Tickets are available at this link.