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Saturday 1 December 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Skindred (Live Review By Alex & Konstantina)

Skindred, Those Damn Crown, Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics, Tramshed Cardiff

[Konstantina] When one of Wales biggest bands come to town you know it's going to be a party and because of that you need a opening act that lights the flame on the evening. It was up to Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics (9) to start the night creating a wild opening atmosphere. Brilliantly dressed in a fabulous suit to compete with the The 'Dred's always immaculate frontman while also adding a dash of Freddie Mercury. It was a frenzied performance from Aaron and his band that got the crowd going as the skilled band cranked out their now well worn, honed setlist of fiery rock tracks taken from their debut album (Fire In The Fields Of Mayhem) and the Heaven's Basement full length (Heartbreakin' Son Of A Bitch).

Having more space on stage than the venues we've seen them in previously it meant that master of ceremonies Aaron had more room to work his magic. As the set continued at full pace from the opening song he spent a lot of time in the crowd and completed his usual headstand, as security scrambled around. With hard rock passed through a Queen sound they even included snippets of Paranoid, My Sharona, The Trooper, Can't Stand Losing You during Dancin' Down Below again competing with the headliners. A brilliant way to start the night (although I am a little biased) setting the bar high for the local acts to follow.

Next up were Those Damn Crows (7) who we last saw supporting Aaron in Clwb Ifor Bach, since then they have signed to Earache Records and re-released their album for a bigger audience to hear. On stage they are still very impressive with Shane Greenhall commanding the stage as they play thick modern rock riffs, they do what they do very well but we have seen them do this numerous times (and will again very soon) still this local band got the Welsh crowd really going for it, the Steelhouse faithfull in full voice for every single sing-along anthem. As they played songs from their debut release showing their great stagecraft by getting the audience involved wherever possible. They continued to fan the fire started by The Cult Classics keeping the excitement at a high ready for the headliners and earning a pretty big applause because of it. 

[Alex] Newport’s finest dub-metal act, Skindred (9), bring one hell of a show to the Tramshed! Only a small venue, frontman Benji Webbe commands the room as if he is playing to a stadium. In fact, having seen them play to larger crowds, twice: Once at Merthyr Rock festival and again at Newport Centre, this gig is definitely the wildest, the intimacy owing perfectly to their unruly genre-blending and remarkable stage presence. Concertgoers chant in the unison as the lights dim and Thunderstruck by AC/DC blares from the speakers lined up above the small stage! Never ones to shun the opportunity to make a grand entrance the Imperial March from Star Wars sounds as the band members triumphantly saunter up to their positions. Powering into Big Tings, they refuse to let up the intensity across the first three songs, as we are also treated to Pressure and live-rarity, Selector. Surprises dispersed throughout include a homage to Back In Black, and the most awesome rendition of ‘If your happy and you know it, clap your hands’ anyone has ever seen!

Whereas for some acts the audience interaction is insignificant and trifling, in Skindred’s case it serves as a huge crowd pleaser, with Beji taunting us at every opportunity! ‘Who wants a t-shirt’ he screams at one point, prowling the stage, and watching audience members anticipation growing, before declaring ‘Fuck off, one of them’s £25, what do ya think we are? Made of money?’. At a later opportunity, the left and right side of the audience compete against each other in loudness, with our charismatic frontman sparing no mercy in playfully jibing both sides for being less enthusiastic than the opposite, with their chants of ‘Whoop Whoop’ and ‘That's My Jam’. Before playing Machine, an anthem with the powerful refrain of ‘Rock n Roll, Saved My Soul’, Webbe reels off a list of legendary acts – Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry David Bowie – every name eliciting huge cheers from the crowd, in a great show of respect

We do get an especially somber moment, with the addition of an acoustic ballad in the set. Saying It Now is dedicated to a recently deceased friend of our frontman. His intention in telling this deeply personal story in front of strangers is simple. ‘Tell the people close to you that you love them before it's too late, because we only get one life’ we are reminded before achingly relatable lyrics and sensual harmonies play out. While I am pleasantly surprised by the addition of a softer song at a Skindred show, it proves a wonderful opportunity to reflect and contemplate the inherent sense of community fostered by concert experiences.

As the set draws to a close and Benji strides back on stage in a gold coloured reflective jacket, we are presented with the two songs everyone here was undoubtedly excited to hear: Nobody and Warning. While large circle pits prove difficult in the small venue, the audience compensate with lots of smaller mosh pits, crowd surfing and unbridled energy. Completing the performance is the trademark, ‘Newport Helicopter’ whereby we are ordered in no uncertain terms to remove an item of clothing and propel it in the air, adding to the fun for the audience and surely proving an enjoyable sight for the band members, After all, to make a statement I’m sure our pals in Skindred will wholeheartedly agree with, at a show it is right that both the audience and the performers enjoy themselves.

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