So I have a confession to make. Despite a lifelong, enthusiastic and eclectic appreciation for all sorts of music, including the heavier stuff, this reviewer had never seen or listened to Skindred. Just one of those acts that I’d heard of but had always passed me by. So, ahead of tonight’s show I do a bit of homework on Spotify. 7 tracks in and I’m still trying and failing to identify what genre this band is. The internet tells me it’s ragga-metal. I don’t know what it is but I like it. A lot.
Skindred @ The O2
Tonight at The O2, as Star Wars’ Imperial March signifies their imminent arrival, I’m excited to see if the 2011 Metal Hammer ‘Best Live Band’ winners can still do it in 2023. Singer Benji Webbe, a hulking bear of a man in his shiny black trench coat, dreadlocks, studded sunglasses and glittery scarf, immediately catches the eye as he saunters onstage and takes in the modest crowd. Guitarist Mikey Demus, black hatted with an impressive beard, looks like he’s on loan from ZZ Top. And as drummer Arya Goggin settles in behind his kit- bass drum emblazoned with an image of the villainous Lo-Pan from Big Trouble In Little China – I get the feeling we’re in for some fun here.
There’s clearly some love for the Welsh rockers in the crowd, albeit mostly in the busy rear-standing section as opposed to the somewhat bemused, sparser golden circle. Perhaps the band see the scores of empty seats around the arena as a challenge, it certainly doesn’t seem to bother them as they kick off a raucous 40-minute set of thrilling, eclectic noise. Opener Set Fazers followed by Ratrace is a strong one-two punch, prompting some respectful nodding from the audience and even some pogoing from the standing throng. Charismatic frontman Webbe tricks everyone into clapping a nursery rhyme… then promptly tells us to “F*ck Off!” with a twinkle in his eye. Twice. It’s all good fun and the crowd is warming up nicely. The singer instigates some rival call-and-response singing and good-naturedly scolds the audience when we mess it up, before they swiftly tear through the thrilling That’s My Jam and straight into L.O.V.E. Is it reggae, drum and bass, dubstep, metal, ska, a bit of everything? I just know I’m really, really enjoying this.
The arena crowd are on board now, lots are singing along, throwing horns as demanded by the talismanic vocalist. A short interlude of Jump by Van Halen, complete with comedy prop Casio, is the aperitif for a searing run of Kill The Power, Nobody and Gimme That Boom. I’m all in. Webbe keeps up the charm and the chat throughout, though his efforts at convincing people to crouch, insistently repeating “This is the Get Down”, fall on mostly deaf ears. A handful of die-hard, (s)kindred spirits do indeed crouch down, shirts in hand, ready to launch their ‘Newport helicopters’ at Webbe’s command. We finish on the barnstorming Warning, and then all too soon the fun is over, as they take their leave to the gentle tones of Carly Simon’s Nobody Does it Better – a highly appropriate choice.
Consider me thoroughly chastened to have slept on Skindred all these years. This was a brilliant show, a perfect warm-up (albeit a hard act to follow) for the main event, KISS. These Welsh ragga-metallers have earned themselves at least one new fan tonight and by the looks of it, I wasn’t the only one.
Review of Skindred @ The O2, London by Sarah Kavanagh. Photos by Kalpesh Patel.