Skindred have had one hell of a year. Their 8th album Smile went to #2 in the UK Album Charts, their song Nobody (of all songs) was the soundtrack to a viral TikTok dance trend which helped draw more attention to the group, and they also announced their biggest UK headline shows to date for next March. And yet, on top of all of that, they’re currently on tour throughout October & November, even making a pit stop at my local stomping ground of Cambridge, to play The Junction. Needless to say, the hype for this gig was real. As it got closer to doors, in typical British fashion, the rain started to fall, and it fell HARD. But the weather didn’t stop the sold-out crowd from coming out and braving the downpour, to support the Welsh ragga-metal quartet. The 850 cap venue felt full as soon as the doors opened – everybody looked eager to check out the exciting support acts before the headliners start.
First up on the stacked bill were Lake Malice, a new and exciting alt-metal duo comprised of vocalist Alice Guala and guitarist Blake Cornwall. Quite literally seconds after they tore into their first track Magic Square, the crowd were firmly in the palm of their hands – some people were singing the words back to them, and there were a fair share of moshpits as well. Every song that passed captivated the attention of absolutely everybody – as if by some psychic magnetic force, nobody could look away. One track in particular, titled Black Turbine, really took me by surprise – at its heart, the song is very electronic-driven, with dark synth lines pulsating in the background over Alice’s growls, before exploding into a chorus that showcases the sheer talent of her clean voice. Combining the metalcore instrumentation of bands like Spiritbox and Architects with the anthemic choruses of early Paramore, this band is definitely one to watch out for, and this won’t be the last you hear of them, either.
The penultimate act, Blackgold, then took to the stage and, as well as that, took everyone in the venue by storm. 5 completely anonymous and masked members took to the stage and exploded into their set, offering a Nu-Metal sound that perfectly encapsulates the early 2000s style that bands like Limp Bizkit and Slipknot helped popularise, but with more of a modernised Hip Hop influence thrown in as well. The lead vocalist Spookz takes a minute to introduce themselves before leading into Sound of the Underground, by asking the crowd “When I say Black, you say Gold” and getting a deafening response back to them. Much like other masked groups like Sleep Token, their ominous and secretive presence leads you to wonder who exactly is behind the disguise, and that aspect, I feel, makes you appreciate the band more. Their stage presence was phenomenal and it was impossible to take your eyes off of them until the second that they disappeared from the stage.
During the break between sets, Queen’s hit Don’t Stop Me Now came on, and the entire audience breaks out into song, keeping themselves preoccupied before the main act. Then, before anyone knew it, the lights went down and a Hip Hop remix of the Imperial March from Star Wars blares out over the speakers as tonight’s headliners, Skindred, grace the Junction stage once again. They waste no time jumping straight into their first track Set Fazers, taken from their latest album Smile, released in August. Almost instantly, the crowd is bouncing and bopping along to the sound of the ‘Dred, and you can tell that the party has truly gotten started.
It’s nice to see that they haven’t lost their comedic edge either – before the end of Rat Race for example, frontman Benji Webbe leads the crowd into an a capella version of Wonderwall by Oasis, to which the crowd dutifully sings back in true British behaviour. It’s a nice little moment until Benji halts it by simply saying “Shut up you cunts” with a smirk on his face, before finishing the song. And then there’s the moment where Hot In Herre by Nelly plays over the speakers, as Benji gets the right side of the crowd to say “woop woop” and the left side to say “That’s my jam” as they get into, you guessed it, That’s My Jam. And when they get into L.O.V.E. (Smile Please), Benji substitutes his trademark studded sunglasses for a fluffy pink hat as they deliver a brilliant rendition of the track, singalongs and all.
After they tear through If I Could (where I had to note, that someone in the crowd was already doing the Newport Helicopter) the group takes a minute to get serious. Benji talks about the struggles he had growing up, and how he remembered seeing bands like The Specials on TV when he was young, and in that moment, music changed for him. He tells the crowd “I wanted to be in a band that brings black people and white people together. I wanted to be in a band that brings the world together through music”, and in that moment, the Cambridge crowd gave a thunderous response. They then led into a short Specials-esque version of Kill the Power which was only fitting, before then exploding into the heavier version we all know and love today.
As the ending to Nobody rang out, and the moshpits (including one that I was in) came to a standstill, the band thanked the crowd and came offstage. It wasn’t for long though, as the audience would not give up on hearing more, and minutes later the guys returned to deliver a stunning performance of Our Religion, before sinking their teeth into the absolute mammoth that is Warning as their set ender. Everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) got their shirts at the ready and as if by command, got them all lined up in both of their hands and in the air, ready for the signal to unleash hell. Spookz from Blackgold made an appearance to lend vocals and take part in the mayhem too. Then, when the “1, 2, 3, 4” count rang out, the propellers were let loose, and the shirts were flung around and around in the air. Shortly afterward, the chaos was over, soundtracked to the mellow sound of Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon as the lights came up and the crowd filtered out.
Seeing this set in such a small and intimate venue, one has to imagine just how much louder, broader, and more fun it would be in a bigger venue. Luckily for those who have pondered this thought, next year the quartet take on a short run of larger shows, culminating with a slot at Wembley Fucking Arena. If you were unlucky enough to miss out on tickets to this tour, then don’t sleep on tickets to their March 2024 shows, because only then will you have really missed out on seeing easily one of the best metal bands live in this day and age.
Review – Joe Richardson
All live images – Rob Wilkins 2019
SKINDRED UK HEADLINE TOUR DATES
20th October: Newcastle, NX (SOLD OUT)
21st October: Glasgow, The Garage (SOLD OUT)
26th October: Margate, Dreamland (SOLD OUT)
27th October: Brighton, Chalk (SOLD OUT)
28th October : Bristol , O2 Academy (SOLD OUT)
3rd November: Sheffield, Leadmill (SOLD OUT)
4th November: Lincoln, The Engine Shed (SOLD OUT)
10th November: Cardiff, Great Hall (SOLD OUT)
11th November: Southampton, O2 Guildhall (SOLD OUT)
17th November: Belfast, Limelight 1 (UPGRADED)
18th November: Dublin, Academy (SOLD OUT)
14th March: Manchester, Academy
15th March: London, OVO Wembley Arena
16th March: Birmingham, O2 Academy
For tickets & more details go to www.skindred.net/#live