Liverpool o2 Academy, Thursday 5th May 2011

Due to the fantastically random nature of the number 17 bus (every 6 minutes during the day, every now and then in the evening) even setting off in good time meant nothing and I missed the beginning of the Me Vs Hero set. When I arrived at the venue, it was already pretty busy, more than you’d expect this early in the evening. The busy crowd seemed to enjoy their half hour set. The band played a decent set; they got the crowd behind them and kept the energy going. A decent enough start to the evening

Chiodos seemed to struggle slightly as the majority of the crowd was getting desperate to see the headliners. They did little wrong, and got a decent crowd reaction and they made good use of the small stage. On another day they could do well in a tight claustrophobic venue like this, but there was only one band that were going to own this evening.

The anticipation built for Skindred and some of the crowd were starting to get quite impatient waiting for them to come on. When the intro tape started of the old theme to News At Ten, the temperature rose. Suddenly, the band walked out on stage and as soon as they broke into first track ‘Bruises’ the pit went crazy. One of the cool things about this venue is the chance to watch from the side of the stage, and I had never really watched the band before in the 5 or 6 times I had seen them (having been in the middle of all the chaos), I took the opportunity to have a different view on the proceedings.

From my new vantage point you really did get the sense of how much control vocalist Benji Webbe has over the crowd, with the 500 people packed in here fulfilling his every bidding, and responding whenever he asked for more noise. The set continued with ‘Roots, Rock, Riot’, ‘Set It Off’, which wound the crowd up further and carried on raising the temperature and ‘Rude Boy For Life’, which was the first chance for the crowd to take it easy. It was after this that we got a taste of the how the new album sounds live. ‘Doom Riff’ which gave the crowd a chance to sing along with the band, which of course wasn’t loud enough for Benji, but he soon got the reaction he wanted.

‘State Of Emergency’ followed and then ‘Trouble’ during which the band started the heaviest version of ‘Sad But True’ I have ever heard, for which the crowd were almost feral. ‘Calling All Stations’ and another new tune ‘Living A Lie’ flowed by as the band raced through their set, keeping up the tempo and the heat. ‘Selector’ (with a couple of lines from Black Sabbath’s classic ‘War Pigs’ thrown in for good measure), ‘Cut Dem’ and ‘Rat Trap’ followed, with the latter giving Benji a chance to tell the crowd how much he loved them.

With the band having as much fun as crowd and both parties feeding off the energy of the other, this was a party that just kept getting better. Both ‘The Fear’ and ‘Gun Talk’ felt like old favourites already, and blended into the set perfectly. The banter between the band and crowd continued and Benji took the time to introduce the rest of the band (bassist Daniel Pugsley, Guitarist Mike Demus, drummer Arya Goggin and Dan Sturgess to the crowd). During ‘Destroy The Dancefloor’ it was Liverpool’s chance to outdo other crowds on the tour. We were told that “Brighton, Cardiff and South Africa were rubbish at this” and we were challenged to perform the best Robot dance of the tour. They seemed happy with the result.

The set ended with ‘Nobody’ from debut album “Babylon”, and again brought a massive reaction from the crowd, both vocally and pit wise. The only sour point of the entire night came right at the end when right next to where we were stood, it seemed like a bouncer was unhappy at something and wanted to challenge guitarist Mike about it. He suggested he had been spat on, which hadn’t happened, but just brought the end of an amazing show down a little. The delay in sorting out this problem meant that when the band returned, there was only time for a one song encore, and Me Vs Hero’s Sam Thompson joined him to the vocals on “Union Black” lead single ‘Warning’ (Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix unable to join them as we were told he was “at home counting money, smoking a huge spliff and drinking 200 year old whisky”).

This show was further proof that Skindred are one of the best bands we have in Britain right now. Strong albums backed up with excellent live shows. It is a pity that something is holding them back from being bigger as they have proved at festivals that they have a big fan base, but on the other hand, I would love them to keep playing these smaller intimate show, as the energy in the room on nights like this puts a lot of other bands to shame.

Skindred Setlist:

Bruises – Roots, Rock, Riot – Set It Off – Rude Boy For Life – Doom Riff – State Of Emergency – Trouble – Calling All Stations – Living A Lie – Selector – Cut Dem – Rat Trap – The Fear – Gun Talk – Destroy The Dancefloor – Nobody – Warning (Encore)

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All photographs are from the Rock City show in Nottingham, taken by the excellent Sean Larkin for our good friends at Midlands Rocks, reproduced with permission from the copyright holder.