Live Review: Skindred – O2 Academy 2, Newcastle, October 4th 2009

SkindredGetting back on the road in support of latest release Shark Bites and Dog Fights, the ragga-metal monster that is Skindred bring their furious live show to a sold out Academy 2 tonight. With Karnivool jetting all the way from Australia, and Dead By April making the journey overseas from Sweden, there’s some serious talent on display tonight; it promises to be a scorcher.

Aussie prog-quintet Karnivool start the night off with some massive; seriously, building-shaking slabs of slow, anthemic metal. The bass undertones rumbling sound nothing short of awesome, and the band are so tight tonight, frontman Ian Kenny can even find time to quirkily jolt positions to each snare hit coming from behind him in perfect harmony.

Opening track to their new album Sound Awake, Simply Boy, sounds flawless; it’s big, it’s beautiful, it’s heavy as fuck. The interesting point to note, is that this may not be mosh music, but with each of the bands six (admittedly very long) songs tonight, more members of the packed out attendance begin to dispatch their appreciation. First it’s three people politely clapping, but by the end of a blinding performance, the whole room is in rapture, and deservedly so; an absolutely fantastic start to the night.

Swedish chart-stormers Dead By April start the first real movement of the night, frontman Jimmie Strimell demanding a circle pit before the first note has even been struck. The note in question, starts off the very upbeat Angels Of Clarity, and all hell positively breaks loose.

Bodies fly in a strangely respectful mosh riot, nobody gets hurt, and the band in front of said bodies play their songs picture perfectly, astonishing for a band that have been around just a couple of years. They sound like either Sonic Syndicate rip-offs, or Linkin Park on speed, but regardless of who they sound like, they still manage to muster up their own original, heartfelt and emotional sound, topped off with punishing breakdowns and some lethal screaming and brilliant singing work from guitarist Pontus Hjelm.

As great as Dead By April are, it’s unfortunate to say they’re the lesser band of the night, not because they played badly by any stretch of the imagination, but because what’s to come is to blow them right off the stage. A very promising set none the less, from the 5-piece.

Skindred are known for putting on possibly the best live show of any British band doing the rounds at the moment, so it’s to nobody’s surprise that they soar into new track Stand For Something with such an aplomb that it sends each and every member of the crowd into a frenzy that spreads to the four corners of the packed room.

Tight as you’d expect, the “Welsh” quartet pull off each and every track they pull out with so much energy, it reverts right back into the crowd, who don’t stop moving for the 75+ minutes they are commanded to do so. Frontman Benji Webbe is such an entertainer, decked out tonight in a military uniform and accompanying hat from the video for Stand For Something, he constantly gains attention and respect from his audience, and urges them to go as mental as they can, something everyone doesn’t need to be told twice to do.

Ratrace sounds massive, played slightly slower for the extra bounce on the chorus of a crowd inches away from breaking the venues floor tonight with synchronised jumps; Mr. Webbe is without a doubt one of the most talented frontmen in touring bands today, and is playing hard to the crowd tonight, just in case anyone doubted that for a second. New tracks like You Can’t Stop It, and the humorously brilliant cover of Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue spark riot, noise, and general sweatery, all the makings of a first class gig.

Even the between banter is song-inspired; dance beats, jungle rhythms, all manner of noise makes the reggae-metal hybrid sound crunching, ballsy, and triumphant. The crowd have enough energy to make it to the sets endings, crowd favourite Nobody gets a healthy reception, whilst the encore’s burst back into Trouble simply has to be seen to be believed.

With a keyboard-inspired goodbye, Skindred have positively slayed tonight. They deserve every right to be known as the best live band in Britain at this moment – catch them on a small stage while you still can!

George Cannings.

Skindred’s new album, Shark Bites and Dog Fights, is out now on Bieler Bros. Records.

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