On Tuesday the 25th on a frosty November evening, I and about two-hundred others packed ourselves into an intimate room at The Welly Club to experience the “Ragga Metal” band from North Wales, Skindred, perform live. This is a night I will always remember. You could tell that there were people there who had already seen a Skindred gig, and knew what we were all in for. I had been an amateur to such an experience – but nothing could have prepared me for it. Watching Skindred perform has added a whole new dimension to my experiences of live music, and I could sum up this entire review with one sentence: that they are the ultimate band to go and see with your own eyes. This is a total guarantee. There is nothing like them – and I feel like I am quite late in experiencing this revelation. They have already been awarded with “Best Live Band” at the 2011 UK Metal Hammer ‘Golden Gods’ awards, and granted the “Devotion Award” from Kerrang! magazine. Indeed, their onstage presence is a force to be reckoned with, as the band have presence and talent in seemingly all areas of music and entertainment: mixing reggae, metal and punk influences along with jungle, ska, hip hop and dubstep, a beautifully executed mashup delivered with ecstatic dexterity.
From the very beginning of their set the band surprised us, bouncing onstage to a remix of the Star Wars opening theme tune. The audience was completely gripped – a state of total attention that I have never before witnessed at a gig, yet Skindred completely deserved such attention. There was not a moment’s silence for the whole set, each member of the band pouring tremendous effort into bringing their tracks to life and communicating personally with us. I think you would be hard-pressed to find somebody who wouldn’t enjoy them – even if you believed that their music wasn’t for you (which seems to be impossible, as they cover such a wide range of musical styles) it is undeniable how entertaining the lead singer, Benji Webbe, actually is. After every couple of songs, the eclectically-dressed and multi-talented singer would pause to joke with his audience, encouraging us to sing with him and making dynamic, short speeches, building a truly electric atmosphere in the room as we responded to him. At one point he asked us how many of us had bought his music over the years, to which we responded with a cliche “woo” and airpunch, the given audience-response to live artists. He then asked us how many of us illegally downloaded Skindred’s music, to which an even louder “woo” was given. His answer was roughly this – “*laughing* you’re all a bunch of c****s. The next song you’ll probably all know then from STEALING IT you b******s”. Webbe’s genuine attitude was brilliantly witty, and – cheesy as it is – really created the feeling that we were all good friends: unified by humour and a passion for the band.
Each live track, of course, was amazingly executed. You could distinctly tell that they’ve have been in the industry for years (since 1998) as their talent is so raw it’s basically palpable. They covered songs from their older albums, like “Union Black”, including a version of Cut Dem which began with Damien Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock and my favourite song of the evening Doom Riff, alongside tracks from their newest release “Kill The Power”, which came out in January this year. Webbe can go from throaty, ominous screams to fast-paced, energetic rapping in 0.11111 seconds, keeping the audience in a constant headbanging state as each track switched between styles. Not only this, Webbe switched styles like he switched his look, wearing a Steampunk-style tophat at the beginning of the night, before later swapping it for a fluffy red hat, roaring passionate vocals into the mic whilst sporting a fairly adorable look, making the audience possibly love him even more. I cannot mention enough the pure energy that Skindred pours into their live performances, both in delivering their music to a crowd and entertaining them between songs. These efforts did not go to waste, the adrenaline in the room only spiralling higher and higher until tiredness seemed to become an unknown concept to us all. There is no doubt that Skindred really loves their fans, shown through their constant attention to us, a love which further perfectly mirrors their ethos of unity between all people.
Benji’s dynamic personality and Skindred’s rousing music practically bounced of the walls Tuesday and have left me feeling slightly empty and a little nostalgic since. I would recommend an extensive listening to their music as it can only inspire and excite you more to go and see them for yourselves, but stay away from YouTube live videos. Let that be a surprise. It’s worth the wait. Book your tickets.