Gig review: Skindred at O2 Academy Leeds

Skindred are one of those bands that you either get or you don't. I can't think of any other bands in the industry that I could compare them to (not that I would want to anyway), and no specific genre you can actually put them in.

Skindred at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Neil Chapman
Skindred at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Neil Chapman

Skindred sound like, well, Skindred.

However, this time, the entrance was enough for me; AC/DC kicking things off until the entrance to end all entrances. The Imperial March theme started booming out across the O2 Academy, and with the band getting on stage one by one I was literally hopping up and down with excitement.

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They seem to have such an excitable vibe about them, and that look. Have you seen Mikey Demus’s gloriously long beard with shades, hat, and bright back lights? It’s a truly magnificent sight, and I have to say, it will give any man a real strong case of beard envy. Then there was Benji Webbe. With sunglasses that more than likely could have belonged to Vlad the Impaler, leather jacket with Jamaican colours and a Union Jack embroidered on, boots, bandanas hanging. The list of his apparel could go on and on.

CKY supported Skindred at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Neil Chapman

The ‘Start The Machine’ tour was in full force and with the album dropping that morning, and with the music being completely on another level, the whole night was set up to be an intense one. Guitars from Demus absolutely smashing it, Dan Pugsley thundering the bass lines out, Arya Goggin pounding the drums relentlessly and with the precision of a laser guided cluster bomb, and Webbe having the crowd hang on every note he sang whilst eating out of the palms of his hands.

One thing usually kills the vibe at a rock show for me, and that is a slow acoustic style track half way through a set. I can’t remember a time that I’ve ever enjoyed that or felt slightly comfortable, but this one time, Webbe told us a story of a dear friend lost to cancer (RIP Sean) and how he regretted not seeing him more.

Webbe’s presence kind of just demands respect, so pulling off such an emotional and heartfelt song halfway through a set, and even having to take a moment to compose himself afterwards really spoke volumes to me about how Webbe was feeling, and it was something nobody would ever expect from Skindred.

To me, that’s what going to a rock show is all about – sharing an experience, emotion or even just a moment with someone else be it the performers or your friends who you’re there with. Emotions aside, Skindred picked the pace straight back up right to the very end, giving Leeds a taste of the famous Newport Helicopter. To quote a friend: “Yeah, it almost took me eye out, lad.”

A perfect end to a near on perfect evening.