Skindred - Live - Rock City, Nottingham

Rock City, Nottingham, United Kingdom

It’s been a while since the mighty Skindred have graced Nottingham’s finest stage at rock city, something the inhabitants know all to well because the venue has never looked so full. Look! They also brought some awesome friends with them, maybe Hed PE’s punk/hiphop and Crossfaith’s electronic Japanese metal are not who we expected to be invited to the party - but you know it’s going to be one to remember.
First up we have California’s finest, Hed PE. First impression is the stage is way too cluttered and full, obviously all the other bands gear is on stage with them, but this is one of Nottingham’s largest stages and it’s a shame to not see it being used to it’s full potential, and unfortunately it’s left Hed PE with very little territory. The front man, sporting a Guy Fawkes mask for some reason, talks a lot about how the planet earth is just a giant floating ball full of terribleness so I’m guessing it has something to do with the million mask march from the night before. After various political rants and some terrific robot dancing the band continue with their heavy renditions of rap/metal fusion, it’s by no means the best but the attitude is there - it just needs more style. Even with such a small amount of space to work with, the guys really make the stage their own. Exuberating charisma and energy with every note they play, the music might not be the most original or interesting but they demonstrate good dynamic control with their stop start performance styles. The style of their music is difficult to place as it seems to vary with every song, one minute your moshing out to classic punk, and the next it’s like watching Killswitch Engage, this may be because the singers look similar, probably nothing to do with the music. For some reason the front man feels it necessary to remind us after every song which gig we are attending by shouting “Skindred 2015 rock city international” over and over, it’s almost as if he thinks nobody is paying attention so must constantly remind us, how thoughtful. The vocals themselves are mixed, the harsher style works well with their sound but the cleaner vocals don’t do the guys any favors, they sound worn, tired and even a bit off key. Musically it’s all very underwhelming, understandably they only posses one guitarist, bass and drums so it can be difficult to add interesting layers but some effects other than distortion would be a much needed addition. Occasionally they treat us to some more calm and melodic sections but they are few and far between.
After a short, yet seemingly interminable interval the stage is prepped for the mighty Crossfaith, not a band you’d expect to see wedged between Hed PE and Skindred but it’s a welcome addition. Before the band is even on stage we are treated to the fastest, most insane drum solo, ever. No drum solo has ever been this good, this is not up for debate, this is factual, this is their sound check for fucks sake! After such a confident solo performance the bar has been set very high for the rest of the set, and as the heavy EDM kicks in there is no longer any doubt that this will be spectacular. The band rush on with the most gorgeous collection of instruments ever witnessed: an enormous DJ rig, beautiful white pearl drum kit and one fancy ass guitar - these guys spend more money on instruments than the conservatives spend on trains. As the front man hypes the crowd into the most optimistically early circle pit of all time you notice that they have very strong American accents for a band that originates in Japan, It’s also difficult to tell if there are any females in the band, and if so how many. Crossfaith have mastered the electronic/metal crossover like no other band can, if no electronic elements were included this would still be an insane band, spewing with talent - but the addition of D&B and heavy EDM makes it that bit more special. It’s like if Enter Shikari were a hundred times more brutal…and Japanese. Performances of their classic track Monolith goes down a storm with the crowd (particularly myself) and makes a great introduction to their blistering new single Devil’s Party. Later on in the set it all becomes clear to why Crossfaith are at this gig when Benji Webbe from Skindred comes on stage to feature in another new track Wildfire, it makes for an interesting blend but probably not one of their better songs. They finally finish with their famous rendition of Prodigy’s Omen, which they do a great job of making their own and end their performance with the highest high possible.
The time has finally arrived for Skindred to deliver the final blow to this killer gig. The stage has been cleared and no longer resembles a high-end musical instrument store, now there is nothing holding them back. Entrance music for most bands is usually some atmospheric piece followed by the band breaking into their loudest song, however Skindred has gone down the “walk on to a break beat restyling of The Imperial March” route. If anyone here was ever unsure of which band they were watching, the giant sunglasses and fur coats should be a rather significant indication…and several banners reading “Skindred” is a big give away too. They perform the music so perfectly that it’s almost as if you’re listening to a recording, there are zero technical faults, each beat is flawless and the vocals are perfection. The majority of the stage presence is provided by Benji Webbe, as he shouts encouragement and insults in equal measure, it almost feels like being in a failing relationship where nobody knows if they still love you or not. Whatever it is he is doing though he should keep it up, he gets us all to chant our town name which rises the spirits of everyone and makes us feel like an equal part of the performance. It’s easy to see why Skindred have won awards for their shows, the uniting atmosphere, their impeccable musical ability and unbeatable combination of reggae, hip hop and metal is one that cannot be compared.