Skindred, as it turns out, like dropping things.
They like to drop beats over the ‘Imperial March’ as lead singer and frontman extraordinaire Benji Webbe parades onstage. They like to name drop their new album, Kill The Power, as much as physically possible. They like getting the audience to drop to the ground and then command them to jump like they’ve never jumped before. But if there’s one thing they’re particularly good at, and what makes them truly stand out from the the rest (perhaps even more so than their special blend of nu-metal and reggae), is the way they drop in remixes.
Where else but here would you see Sheffield’s social misfits, the kind with more hair than they know what to do with and a certain fondness for leather and anime, mosh and grind to Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’ infused with Skindred’s own ‘Trouble’? Where else, but in Leadmill on the 29th January 2014, would a band have several intermissions (seemingly with the sole purpose of allowing Benji to choose a new pair of sunglasses, and maybe a hat) in which the audience weren’t allowed to talk among themselves – oh no – they had to dance. They had to dance to the likes of Rude Boy Rock’s ‘Lionrock’ and House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’, masterfully mixed by Dan Sturgess (a.k.a. Brixton / Sanchez) and given a heavy stomp my drummer Arya Goggin? Where else – seriously, I want know – could you find ‘Niggas in Paris’, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ blended together so sumptuously, it feels like your blackened soul has just drank a smoothie… or something.
Skindred’s set, to complement the almighty amount of promotion throughout the gig, had a liberal smattering of songs from ‘Kill The Power’. The title track is the anti-establishment anthem you’d expect, with lots of chanting and loud noises and passion. ‘Worlds on Fire’ ramps up the reggae, with sensorious vocals and furious riffs counteracted by rhythmic drumming. ‘Saturday’ feels somewhat out of place on a Wednesday night (particularly when most of the crowd have to get up for school the next morning), and there’s no denying that it panders to their younger audience. An unexpected ballad crops up during the encore in the form of ‘We Live’, which typifies the night’s overarching theme of unity, love and belonging in a world that seems so set against them. Again, there’s a nagging feeling that Skindred are very aware of the fresh crop of emo tweens getting into their music, so they play off the angst and rebellious spirit of the room and perhaps, if only for a moment, forget that they’re grown men.
However, that doesn’t detract from the fact that their older material can still completely destroy. ‘Stand For Something’, ‘Pressure’ and ‘Nobody’ tear the place apart. But naturally, with accompaniment of the traditional “Newport helicopter” (where you take off an item of clothing and swinging it above your head like a maniac – preferably a Welsh one), it was the encore onslaught of ‘Warning’ which everyone was waiting for and revelled in.
Benji bows out to a chorus of ‘Nobody Does It Better’, having been a showman, the orchestrator of mayhem, and an all round brilliant performer. His voice, from it’s rasta flare to it’s gravelly growl and the juxtaposition of a brash South Wales accent, makes him an unrelenting force to be reckoned with. Paired with the unique style and ridiculous skill of the rest of the band, Skindred are something to be experienced.