On their current tour, Skindred have taken the decision to play smaller venues than normal. Whereas their last tour saw them playing the larger academy venues including Brixton academy in London, on this tour the venues are far more intimate – tonight’s venue, The Craufurd arms in Milton Keynes holds around 250 people and unsurprisingly it sold out quickly.
Support on the tour is not from one band – instead the band picked a load of different bands, so each night of the tour gets a different opening act which is a great way to help a load of small bands get extra exposure. Tonight’s support is Essex based band Sun Arcana. Their music is alt-rock and its clear they’re fans of Muse. It’s pretty good but not really my taste. They seem to go down fairly well with the large crowd (the venue being busy already). A good start to the night.
By the time Skindred’s intro tape started and the lights went down, the place was bursting at the seams and the temperature was already climbing. Once Skindred came on, the cheers were loud, and from there on things just got hotter, louder and a lot more lively. When Skindred play festivals or large venues the atmosphere is always fantastic – ina tiny venue like this, it’s absolutely insane. Fairly early in their set I see a girl on someone’s shoulders having a great time, and then realise it’s Skye, singer from Sumo Cyco – tonight is the only night on their UK tour that they’re free and they’ve decided to spend the night bouncing at a Skindred show. Benji spots her and tells everyone that she’s coming up on stage later to sing with them and adds that he doesnt care if she’s drunk, she’s still going to sing.
Bearing in mind it was a cold night, the heating was off and the aircon was on, it tells you a lot about the gig when I say that it was HOT in there with people dripping with sweat. It was inevitable really – Benji doesnt let crowds stand there and watch – he gets them all waving their arms, jumping and bouncing and generally making as much effort as he does. He’s one of the best frontmen in the world when it comes to getting crowds involved and there’s plenty of between song chat and joking, no to mention telling people to stop filming, put their phones away and just have fun instead.
The band are in great form and it’s a great setlist packed with songs for the crowd to go nuts to. Several of the songs include bits of cover versions mixed in which is a nice fun touch too.
When the set ends, there’s a lot of noise as fans demand an encore and Skindred are happy to oblige, telling fans to get ready to do the Newport Helicopter as they start “Warning”. Sumo Cyco singer Skye joins them on stage to sing with Benji and gets into the spirit of it, removing her T-shirt to do the Newport helicopter with the crowd. It’s a great end to a fantastic Skindred gig.
Skindred are one of those bands that is way better live than on CD or streaming. The albums are worth getting to make sure you know the songs, but when you hear them live the atmosphere at a Skindred gig makes things just epic. Their mix of reggae and metal is something that on paper shouldnt work, but it really works well as Skindred have proved consistently for years.
Skindred are a band that never disappoint live whether it’s a small intimate venue like tonight, a large venue like Brixton Academy, or an outdoor festival – Benji’s skill at working a crowd coupled with their great songs make their live shows unmissable.
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