Review: Skindred – OVO Wembley Arena

Wembley Arena. It’s one of the biggest and most beloved venues in the whole country. It’s a venue that bands far and wide have most likely proclaimed that “our dream is to play there” sometime in their career. And for the bands that are lucky enough to step foot on the legendary stage, be it main or support, they get to stand where other iconic artists once stood – The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Prince, Pink Floyd, Queen, KISS, David Bowie, Foo Fighters and countless others have done their part to help make the arena as iconic and prestigious as it is. Tonight, it’s a certain Welsh metal band’s turn to headline: Skindred.

It’s safe to say that Skindred have had an incredibly massive 2023 – their 8th studio album Smile, released last August, went straight to #2 in the UK album charts, and their UK tour to help promote it in October & November completely sold out. And with tonight’s gargantuan show, it looks like they’re not planning on stopping anytime soon. With the help of High Wycombe’s very own metalcore legends As Everything Unfolds and multi-platinum nu-metal icons P.O.D. from San Diego, this is sure to be a night to remember for the ragga metal gods. As fans far and wide collectively travelled into north-west London, anticipation and excitement lingered in the air – thousands of people eager to see what the night held in store for them.

After a well-received set from openers, As Everything Unfolds, it was time for a band that everyone was pleasantly surprised, yet shocked, to see on the bill – P.O.D. Kicking things off with their first track Drop, taken off of their upcoming 11th record, the group quickly eased the crowd into grooving along with them, as well as starting up a couple of moshpits across the arena floor. As they played through tracks like Youth of the Nation, Satellite, and the almighty anthem that is Alive, the Wembley crowd were deafening in response, with everyone singing their hearts out just like it was 2001 all over again. Vocalist Sonny Sandoval ends the show with one last singalong of the latter’s chorus, before signing off with “Keep flying London, keep trying London, you’re gonna be alright”, as the titans walked offstage. It’s both incredible and unbelievable at the same time to see a band like P.O.D. support Skindred tonight, and it’s clear to see that the audience will be seeing them again, as well as picking up their new album Veritas, out in May!

After a very short turnaround, the lights went low and AC/DC’s iconic track Thunderstruck blasted through the arena, getting everyone clapping along and chanting back the chorus to the empty stage, lit up entirely in dark blue lights. And as a hip hop-influenced rendition of The Imperial March from Star Wars started to blare out, the group took to the stage (with Benji waving a Skindred-infused Union Jack flag, no less) and tore right into their set with Set Fazers, complete with confetti and all. It already felt like one big party and one that wouldn’t stop even into the late hours, as the crowd went well and truly mental; responding to every call that Benji set up, and every motion that he wanted the 12,500 cap to mirror. The drums are heavy, the bass is fat, and the guitars are loud – a perfect combination for a perfect set.

But it’s not just Skindred songs that get played by the band tonight, as they also find time to throw in little humourous snippets/samples of beloved tracks by other legendary artists too. Halfway through Pressure, guitarist Mikey Demus cranks out the simple yet effective riff of Back In Black by AC/DC, which leads the crowd into a typically British ‘duh, duh-duh-duh” frenzy, and near the end of Rat Race they play a sample of Queen’s classic Don’t Stop Me Now, which gets interrupted by Benji exclaiming “you motherfuckers!” as they finish the original song up. They also do a medley of tunes after the aptly titled That’s My Jam, which begins with Van Halen’s Jump and segues into House of Pain’s Jump Around. Beginning to see the theme here? Good, because it’s not actually a theme, as they end it with… I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers. Skindred: Lords of the Tease!

After the emotionally charged Life That’s Free, Benji takes the mic and announces “This song’s called Nobody, and I dedicate it to… EVERYBODY!!”, before tearing into the aforementioned classic. It gets the most rapturous response of the night (so far) and everyone around me can’t help but move to the groove. The drum and bass-infested ending that followed unleashes everyone’s inner raver before they come back down to earth with the equally as anthemic Gimme That Boom. After a brief departure from the stage and several “Skindred! Skindred!” chants from the crowd, heavy bass thumped through the speakers and violently vibrated the floors and walls, as they tore through Our Religion in style.

And finally, the moment everyone was waiting for came at last; the Newport Helicopter. Without saying a single word to the audience, everybody grabbed a shirt, whether it was one from tonight’s merch stands or one from their own body, grabbed it by two hands, lifted them high in the air, and simultaneously let ‘er fucking rip for Benji and co. Sonny from P.O.D. came onstage to help assist with its proper take-off, and from then, we were flying. When it came time for the band to bid farewell to the London masses properly, it seemed only fitting that Carly Simon’s hit Nobody Does It Better rang out as the crowd left. Just like that, the crowd filtered out of the arena, some even still waving their helicopters around!

When I compare tonight’s show to when I saw them at the Cambridge Junction last October, it brings up a few points. Though it was amazing to see them perform in such an intimate venue, I left Wembley thinking that they were simply destined for the bigger stages – it’s frankly criminal that it’s taken this long for them to headline the arena, and I strongly believe that this won’t be the last time we’ll see them headline it either! Benji summed up the show perfectly midway through the set by saying “This is not just another concert, no. This is a celebration of life!” – and boy, was he right! Simply put, tonight belonged to Skindred, and they thoroughly deserved every second of it.

Review – Joe Richardson

All live images via Wilful Publicity – credit Mark Latham

Connect with Skindred HERE

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