LIVE: Skindred @ The Roundhouse, London

By Aaron Jackson

As the lights dropped and the oh so familiar riff of AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ began, the energy palpably shifted. With each guttural shout of “thunder” from the crowd, the sense of anticipation and excitement grew. Finally strolling onto stage to a typically atypical remix of the ‘Imperial March’ from some space battle franchise, Skindred were met with rapturous applause.

Wasting no time whatsoever, the pounding drums at the start of ‘Stand For Something’ was an ample invitation for the mosh pits to open up. Limbs flailed as the band tore through their first song and continued to do so into fan-favourite ‘Rat Race’. Capped off with a singalong of Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’, fans were well and truly onside (as if they needed any encouragement in the first place). Then, the frantically percussive ‘Sound The Siren’ led into ‘Doom Riff’, the chorus of which was similarly lapped up by the audience, with cries of “woah” reverberating around the venue at every angle.

The second nod to AC/DC in the setlist came as an interjection in early favourite ‘Pressure’. In addition to the obvious fan service that a cameo of such an iconic song elicits, minor deviations such as these demonstrate Skindred’s proficiency as an outfit to shift their sound with relative ease. Furthermore, it’s performances like that of ‘That’s My Jam’ that really highlight Benji Webbe’s excellence, not just as a frontman, but as an all-round showman. Before starting the song, Webbe commandingly divided the crowd into sections, instructing each one to sing different parts of the hook. Naturally, all obeyed and the participation of the crowd fuelled a standout run-through.

Reluctant to show any signs of slowing down yet, Skindred then delivered a double-barrel blast of ‘Ninja’ and ‘Kill The Power’, both of which were taken from the band’s fifth studio album ‘Kill The Power’. The latter of the two performances was particularly impressive, largely due to the fact that the audience’s chants of the track’s title comfortably drowned out those from the band themselves.

‘Saying It Now’ was a stark, but not unwelcome change of pace. Dedicated with sincerity to the “fallen troops” of the world’s recent hardship, this rare ballad provided a poignant point of reflection amongst the otherwise breakneck-paced evening. Following this, the band’s ever-effervescent performance of ‘Nobody’, and the crowd’s reciprocal reaction was a true testament to the genius of Skindred’s dynamic. Genre-bending and infectiously chaotic, the unique brilliance of this song has cemented it as a landmark hit, not only in Skindred’s oeuvre, but in the history of rock and metal.

Launching into their encore with a brief remix/cover of Slipknot’s ‘Duality’ sent the crowd straight back into their state of perpetual frenzy. Then, as if there could ever be any other way, the four-piece drew their set to a close with the anthem to the famous Newport helicopter, ‘Warning’. Following some words of encouragement from Webbe, shirts were keenly peeled off in anticipation of the song’s big drop. Upon detonation, fans were met with a cool breeze mildly scented with the musk of body odour as said shirts were cyclically whipped in the air. One glance around the Roundhouse showed that even those seated were passionately flinging their garments around. Nature truly is healing.

Exiting the stage to the sound of Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does It Better’, it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment of that song title. Since the release of their debut LP ‘Babylon’ in 2002, Skindred have enjoyed a career that will inspire generations to come. Standing out from the crowd but fundamentally promoting a message of unity is at the core of this band’s DNA and the importance of this should not be understated nor lost in the noise that they make. Undoubtedly, Skindred’s impact and influence struck everyone in attendance thanks to a simply unforgettable performance.