It only seems like yesterday I was watching in awe as Dub War performed live in the scruffy old club that was JB's in Dudley. Benji Webbe's outfit at the time were something unique, something different and something entirely special. Lack of support from their record label eventually caused the fall of that ensemble, but from its ashes Webbe flew anew having pulled together what we now know and love as Skindred.
Skindred,and Webbe in particular, take much of that early ethos into the current outfit. The meld of traditional heavy metal with a mix of reggae, hip-hop and drum and bass on paper sounds like a bizarre concoction, but in reality its a stunning wall of sound that you can't help but enjoy.
As the touring machine rolls into Birmingham tonight the band bring with them Danko Jones and CKY. An intriguing touring line up, inspired in design and one that has sold out nearly every date so far.
Danko Jones is somewhat of a dark horse, not really a house hold name in the UK, despite a long and successful career on the other side of the pond. Their sound is out and out rock and roll, with the occasional hint of something a little heavier, all delivered with Danko's trademark smile. The Canadian trio obviously love what they are doing and the fans feed off that, appreciative of such entertainment so early on in the evening. If you like your music a little less heavy then these guys are well worth checking out.
Next up are CKY from Pennsylvania, perhaps most famous for featuring the brother of Bam Margera, from Jackass fame, than of their music. But that statement does them a dis-service. A hard rock band that can really get the fans dancing is not a common sight. Their music is full of groove laden bass lines that drive the sound, opening with The Human Drive in Hi-Fi the fans are singing and bouncing along. The theme continues for 45 minutes and the banter between band and fans is something special, a comedic element with warms the heart. To close out the band plays their most well known song Escape From Hellview, that has us all reminiscing of the early millennial music scene to which this tune was a staple.
But lets be honest, whilst the support bands were entertaining, we are all here for one reason, and soon enough Skindred will take to the stage to enthrall us. The Institute in Birmingham is sold out tonight, and as the roadies fever away the fans sing along to Queen and AC/DC playing over the PA, 3000 people singing these classics is a delight.
When the room darkens the cheers go up and the Imperial March (Star Wars) plays as dry ice machines pump smoke out across the stage. From the gloom a leather clad figure emerges Benji Webbe, an awe inspiring presence infront of us. Opening with new song Big Ting's the room is buzzing, and this will continue throughout, the energy of Webbe on stage feeds the crowd and their energy in return feeds him.
The setlist is strong, Selector, Pressure, Machine and Ninja all making appearances and as the crowd bounce along we can feel the floor move beneath our feet. Webbe may drive the band forward with his energy and exuberance, but the musicianship to perfom this metal/reggae/dub sound is up there with the best. It’s a hard sound to deliver but the band do it with what looks like ease.
As they close the show with Roots Rock Riot, Rat Race and the inevitable Warning, the air in the room is electric. Rarely will you find a live performance that delivers so much. Here tonight, and doubtless on every other night on the tour, Skindred have delivered. Entertainment personified, the best live gig you will experience this year. Of that I have no doubt.