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Saturday 2 November 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Skindred (A Live Review By Neil Lewis)

Skindred, Those Damn Crows, Tigress, Who Knows Didley, Fallen Temples, Tribeless, Cwmbran Stadium, Cwmbran

So it was off to rainy Cwmbran for an event named Stadium Rocks, which saw a total of six
bands – all bar one mainly from the South Wales area - performing for the princely sum of £25 and headlined by the almighty Skindred. If you think that sounds like a no-brainer for me then you'd be correct. Thankfully the show was held indoors in a gym/basketball court rather than outside in the stadium itself - and after two solid days of rain I’m sure a number of the punters in attendance were thankful for that fact.

Up first on the day were Welsh valleys based alt-rock three piece Tribeless (7) whose sound is highlighted by the big big voice of Lydia McDonald. As a front, Lydia has an engaging stage presence and so does guitarist and second vocalist Latif Bryant, and overall their set was pretty tight stuff. All three members (the line-up is completed by drummer and backing vocalist Max Rhead) looked to be having a ball onstage despite the somewhat sparse crowd at this early point in the proceedings.

Next were six-legged riff machine and Musipedia faves Fallen Temples (8). "All we do is riffs" quipped guitarist/vocalist Adam Vaughan at one point and he isn't kidding. This was my first time seeing them and I have to say I was impressed. Old but new skool Sabbath-esque rock with very good stage presence especially from bassist Joe Lewis, who was as energetic and enthusiastic here as anyone on the night. Unfortunately, it looked like their set was slightly curtailed as we were running a few minutes late already but I'm pretty sure that a few new fans were made on this evening, this writer included.

Who Knows Didley? (5) were on next and their straight forward classic rock style was fairly enjoyable although somewhat forgettable to me to be honest. The sound balance seemed to be a little off to my ears as the guitar and vocals were about all I could hear throughout their set, although they may like it that way as no other bands seemed to be affected by this. Other than that sound, perhaps the most memorable thing about their set was vocalist Paul Matthews’ penchant for performing barefoot.

Chelmsford based pop rockers Tigress (4) were up next and even though their performance was good and their grunge-y sound isn’t terrible by any means they aren't really my sort of thing so they kinda just didn’t grab me at all.

Merch for the evening's main support band - Bridgend's Those Damn Crows (8) - was very conspicuous amongst the crowd throughout the proceedings thus far so they were greeted with some rapturous applause when they hit the stage. Their brand of Alter Bridge / Shinedown esque rock went down very well with the (partisan) crowd in attendance and they put on a pretty good performance as well. With their clear popularity and radio-friendly sound I wouldn't be too surprised to see the band headlining shows like this in the next few years.

If you've seen them before you'll know that Skindred (9) are one of those bands that use the veteran’s trick of warming up the crowd during their intermission. Said warm up tracks (Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town, Queen's Don't Stop Me Now, Ramone's Blitzkrieg Bop and finally AC/DC's Thunderstruck) were thumping over the PA to herald the band's imminent arrival (an arrival sound tracked as always by their breakbeat flavoured reworking of The Imperial March). If you have seen the band before you also don't need me to tell you just how good in the live arena they are, with Newport’s own Mr Benji Webbe being one of the very best fronts in the business and on typically top form on this night. From his hilarious crowd-baiting banter to the spot on vocals whether they be the more aggressive ragga style (as used during set opener Sound The Siren) or the more melodic style (as highlighted by an acoustic rendition of Saying It Now). 

Tonight's show also included something Benji dubbed “the Skindred Sandwich Challenge” whereby a member of the audience had ten seconds to eat an entire supermarket sandwich, a challenge which the audience member failed. So they didn’t get to keep the sandwich. Or something…. We also had a spot of rabble rousing for the Welsh national rugby team who were playing in the semi-finals of the World Cup the following day, a match which the team unfortunately lost. Finally, we also had the obligatory Newport Helicopter during set closer Warning, which as usual went down an absolute storm. As is another tradition, the band exited the stage to the strains of Carly Simon's Nobody Does It Better to finish the night off. That song choice may not be subtle but in this writers's; opinion it may well be true.

If you’re interested, Skindred’s set list was as follows: Sound The Siren, Pressure, Ratrace, Machine, Ninja, That's My Jam, Saying It Now (acoustic), Kill The Power, Nobody, Big Tings, Warning.

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