Even though it was a rainy Saturday evening, the O2 Academy on the Cowley Road was packed full of happy and energetic Skindred fans eager for a good night out. I’m pretty sure that the excitement was further enhanced by the fact that most people had finished work for the holidays and were full of festive spirit...and spirits, which made for a great party atmosphere.
Local five-piece, Desert Storm started proceedings. They really ramped up the crowd with their groove-metal riffs and catchy choruses. They were received well by the crowd who gave them their full attention and are definitely one to watch on the Oxfordshire metal scene for the future.
Next up were Sonic Boom Six. They played an eclectic mix of ska, punk, metal, drum and bass and grime. Front-woman Laila Khan captured the audience’s attention with her melodic vocals and commanding stage presence and she complemented the band’s rapper and vocalist Barney Boom well to deliver a well-thought out and compelling set.
After a bit of a wait, the fans were pumped-up and eagerly awaiting the arrival of Skindred and their much-loved Welsh front-man Benji Webbe. The lights went down and the Imperial March played suspensefully as the band made their way onto the stage. They opened with ‘Big Tings’ and ‘Selector’ which showcased the band’s unique style of heavy metal, reggae and jungle perfectly. Benji is so relatable and bantered comfortably with the crowd, coaxing us to join in with some of the songs. Big hits ‘Pressure’ and ‘Rat Race’ followed with a short interlude of Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody,’ which really got the crowd singing and dancing! After a few more songs, the lights went down and some of the band left the stage. Benji struggled to keep the attention of the excitable crowd as he spoke of his friend who had passed away from cancer some years ago and dedicated a soulful acoustic rendition of ‘Saying it Now’ to him, which really showcased his skilful singing voice. After hyping us up again with some more crowd participation, the band came back on and finished with fan favourites ‘Kill the Power’ and ‘Nobody.’
After screams for “One more song!” Skindred came back even heavier for the encore with ‘Warning’ joined by Laila Khan. If you haven’t seen the band before, this is the track where they ask the crowd to take off their t-shirts and twirl them around their heads. This move is aptly named the 'Newport Helicopter' and the fans love it!
Overall, this was a fun gig. The band really know how to get the audience going and played all of their best hits for maximum crowd participation. They’ll be playing at Download 2019 and are definitely a must see if you like your metal with a side of ragga-punk!