It may not seem like it, but Skindred have been around for some time now: A whole 12 years since their classic debut Babylon blurred the lines between metal, reggae, hip-hop and everything in-between. Consistently excellent as their recorded output has been over the years, ask anyone in the know and they will tell you that you’ve never had the optimal Skindred experience until you’ve seen them live, and the packed out Mo’ Club will attest to that.
First on the bill was L.A. mentalists Viza; their blend of rock and metal with more traditional eastern influences (one of their six members is an oud player) immediately brings to mind System Of A Down and Golgol Bordello. Therefore it was no surprise to learn that they are managed by System frontman Serj Tankian. The reception of the crowd to their energetic performance is one that might be expected of a headline set, with existing fans singing along to every word and everyone else in the room quickly won over to their quirky but catchy arsenal of tunes. There is even demand for an encore, which they deliver after the repeated calls from fans.
Next up was Chicagoan alternative metal veterans Soil, who seemed to be the primary attraction for a portion of the audience. Their recent reuniting with original singer Ryan McCombs has given the band something of a second wind: the tracks played from last year’s Whole album are some of the highlights of the set, with single ‘Shine On’ in particular being a shining example of this (sorry). However despite the best efforts of the band to please, a number of people in the crowd are interested only in hearing early hit ‘Halo’. Calls for this are constant throughout the set, and it is easy to see how a massive hit single can be both a blessing and a curse! Naturally this was saved until last and transformed the room into a unified mass of jumping bodies all circled around Ryan, who ventured out into the middle of the floor to sing this song.
The lights dim and ‘The Imperial March’ played over the PA before a hip-hop beat entered in behind it, morphing the classic John Williams piece into a dance floor-filler, heralding the arrival of the headliners and foreshadowing the vast melting pot of musical styles to appear. Frontman Benji Webbe entered clad in gangsta-ized military uniform and huge spiked shades before the band broke into ‘Rat Race’. Several new tracks from the new album Kill The Power were played: The already-released ‘Ninja’ and the title track were met with great enthusiasm, as if they were tried and tested classics, and ‘World’s On Fire’ and ‘Saturday’ were welcome additions to their repertoire. Also ‘We Live’, which appears as their first encore, is the closest thing to a ballad they have ever recorded; on paper, that may not sound so appealing from someone like Skindred, but this sounds like it could be a future anthem for the band and shows once again that they can seemingly turn their hand to any musical style. There are a few surprises throughout: a medley featuring ‘State of Emergency’ and ‘Selector’, a brief instrumental duel between drummer Arya Goggin and DJ Dan Sturgiss and samples of everything from Metallica’s ‘Sad But True’ to ‘Niggas in Paris’. By the time the closing ‘Warning’ starts up, most of the audience have already removed their shirts in preparation for the ‘Newport Helicopter’, and when the moment arrives everybody loses it one last time.
The choice of Carly Simon’s classic ‘Nobody Does it Better’ as the one to see the band offstage was a very fitting one; Skindred have proved once again that they are one of, if not the best live band in the UK, and judging by the new songs exhibited tonight they’re still not done with pushing the boundaries of music.