Posted by & filed under Features, Music, Reviews.

Skindred festival warmup show gets a rave review


Tickets for Skindred‘s warm-up show, preparing them for their main stage appearances at Reading and Leeds festivals this weekend just gone, sold out roughly 60 seconds after going on sale.

This is impressive, but with barely 200 bodies required to fill the tiny upstairs room at the Camden Barfly, the show was always going to be packed to its sweat-filmed rafters.

My love of the band and their distinctive ragga-punk hybrid extends back beyond the release of 2002 debut Babylon, and it would be a conservative estimate to say I’ve seen a dozen Skindred shows. Hell, my passion really extends back further than the existence of the band itself. The first time I can confidently date watching frontman Benji Webbe on stage was at the Greenbelt festival in 1994, with previous band Dub War.

But Benji doesn’t like talking about Dub War, and makes a point this evening of openly mocking a rather misguided call from the crowd for the band to play a Dub War tune. Benji has no time for ghosts, and with Skindred 2013 being a better band than Dub War in all respects other than opportunities for nostalgia, its not hard to see why.

There is no support band, so the steadily growing crowd is instead kept occupied by a dj spinning a selection of 90s metal hits before Skindred’s inspired intro tape – a reworking of the Star Wars Imperial March underpinned with the fattest, dirtiest beat imaginable – fills the PA.

With a minimum of fuss, the band launch into an opening one-two punch of “Nobody” and “Rat Race“. The crowd, probably pushed past capacity by the guest list, goes wild.

However good Skindred albums are, its clear that they really come into their own on stage; even one that must be significantly smaller than those they must have become accustomed to playing on in recent years. Mikey, Dan and Arya are a rock solid unit and all but note perfect, rendering the notion of this show being an opportunity to warm up something of an academic one.

But the intimate environment gives Benji the opportunity to really work the crowd. Make no mistake; Benji is in the premier league of frontmen, right up with the very best that metal has to offer, past and present. Charming and commanding in equal measure, humorous and lightly intimidating, he acts as ring master and drill sergeant with his constant calls to action.

It’s virtually impossible to not get swept along with it, and pretty much every body in the room is moving to some degree. The kids in the pit even manage to organise a wall of death on their own initiative, which is pretty impressive.

The setlist is weighted towards the first couple of albums, and packed with fan favourites. Surprisingly, only the title track from the band’s upcoming album Kill The Power gets an airing, and not the very recently released teaser track “Ninja“. But, I suppose that a festival set it not really the place for too much unreleased material.

After almost exactly an hour on stage, the band abruptly say goodnight and wander off – but nobody really believes they aren’t coming back, so the calls for an encore are half-hearted at best. The whole encore thing does feel a bit tired, and I can’t help but think that bands generally should just drop the charade.

The break does give Dan, the band’s live DJ, the opportunity to spin a few bars of a positively filthy dubstep remix of The Prodigy‘s “Breathe“. The band then send us back into the night with “Warning“, complete with ‘Newport Helicopter’ crowd participation.

At Download Festival 2011

The band have just announced a fuller UK tour for January 2014, so if you didn’t catch their sets at Reading and Leeds, you’re not going to have to wait that long to witness, without hyperbole, one of the best live bands on the circuit right now.

Neotenic writer banner