Skindred – O2 Academy, Bristol, 12/11/15

Tonight is about respect. Not just for each other – which we’ll get to later – but also between band and punter. It’s well known to frontmen and women that if you can earn the respect of a crowd, they’ll be putty in your hands and do pretty much anything you want on command. Sadly, Harry Radford and Kevin Miles of Yashin (5) don’t get this. Yes, they’re bouncy and positive and leaving the stage to jump amongst the audience, but demanding a circle pit that you’re never going to get ends up looking pretty desperate, as does attempting to start a mosh and being the only one to throw shapes. No complaints from a musical view – new song The Renegades is a particular highlight, as is closer D.E.A.D, but does anybody really care about them in 2015? The jury’s still out on that one…

Thank goodness, therefore, for (hed) p.e (8) who open with a cover of The Specials’ Ghost Town – complete with frontman Jared playing the melodica – and immediately win everybody over. From hereon in, the energy builds to borderline mania: the pits get brutal and songs like One More Body and Killing Time are met with huge receptions. They’ll probably never be the coolest band in the world, but tonight (hed) p.e are on top form. Special mention to drummer Trauma, who doesn’t stop gurning for the whole half hour set, and to Jared for some top-notch banter that mainly centres around cannabis. Go figure.

But whilst (hed) p.e get everybody warmed up nicely, it’s nothing compared to Crossfaith (9), who tonight genuinely threaten to bring the students living above the venue through the floor/roof and into the sea of bodies furiously crashing into one another down below. By now, everybody is aware of how intense the Japanese outfit’s live show is, yet somehow tonight there’s an extra spark in the air, and the minute the title track from new album Xeno kicks in the place simply explodes. Kenta Koie leads the now rabid crowd through MonolithCountdown to Hell and Devil’s Party before he ups the ante and brings out the one and only Benji Webbe for a bruising run through of Wildfire, which will surely become a staple setlist song for years to come. They’re not finished there either; their now famous cover of Omen tears the place apart at the seams one final time. Their headline tour here next year will be a spectacle not to miss.

After a performance like that, you do genuinely wonder what Skindred (9) can muster up to follow them. Suffice to say,  the headliners come damn close to matching Crossfaith, but as has been the case so often across this tour, they don’t quite have the edge to top them. Not for want of trying though – yet again they bring a massive party to the Academy, which responds in earnest. The opening trio of songs does enough to buckle the foundations once more, especially Stand for Something which goes off like a petrol bomb and sends the place into bedlam. Elsewhere in the set, we get a deep cut in Cause Ah Riot (the first airing on a tour since 2012), a killer Pressure and a truly magnificent Ninja, whilst of course everything is rounded off with Warning and 1,600 people doing the ‘Newport Helicopter’. But it’s Doom Riff that stands out tonight, as the aforementioned respect comes to light and Benji tells us that Skindred exist to bring people. ‘It doesn’t matter whether you’re gay, black, Muslim, Christian, whatever. If you’re here, you’re family’ he says. ‘This song is for all of you’. Immediately we’re jumping, bouncing, moving as one and it doesn’t matter that some are here for the reggae, some for the punk, some for the metal and some for the hip hop. What’s important is that everyone is a gigantic unit with no boundaries or prejudice, and as Skindred make music for that very reason, it’s another job well done tonight.

Skindred setlist

Under Attack
Roots Rock Riot
Stand for Something
Rat Race
Doom Riff
Sound the Siren
Cause Ah Riot
Kill the Power
Playing with the Devil


Photos by Becky O’Grady

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About Elliot Leaver

PlanetMosh's resident Iron Maiden fanboy and Mr. Babymetal. Also appreciates the music of Pink Floyd, Rammstein, Nightwish, Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot and many others. Writing to continue to enjoy life away from the stresses of full-time employment.