I’m beginning to like this idea of sponsored gigs. After all, if nothing else, the sponsorship helps to bring down the insane costs of gigging nowadays – noted last night on the gig listings was a Happy Mondays show at Brixton for £37.50, for example – and also benefits from perhaps better promotion and backing than some other gigs will. In this case, though, it was hardly as if the bands themselves weren’t going to be a draw – both of the effectively co-headliners have big followings, nowadays.
featuring Skindred and Therapy?
Live @ O2 Brixton Academy, London SW9
13 April 2012
But both bands have taken diverging paths over the past couple of decades. Therapy?‘s best days were, frankly, in the early nineties, where their metal-punk-pop hybrid hit a much more open-minded time with a bullseye in the form of Troublegum, an album that managed to balance both accessibility and heaviness almost perfectly. And since then, to my ears they have treaded water at best. And after a Damnation show a few years ago that was really quite poor, I was interested to see how their return to playing Troublegum a few years ago had affected their show.
Before You, With You, After You
Get Your Dead Hand off My Shoulder
Living In The Shadow Of A Terrible Thing
We got an answer pretty damned quickly, too, as they burst onstage and ripped straight into Teethgrinder. Oh yes. Sadly knocked back a bit by a muddy sound (rectified within a couple of songs), but it didn’t matter too much as we were all having too much fun to notice. Their short, forty-five minute set was full of old favourites, too, as the band wisely chose a good mix of new songs, and then a whole load off Troublegum, pleasing both the new fans and old fans.
And the remarkable thing was that the new songs sounded fantastic, particularly a snarling, grinding Get Your Dead Hand off My Shoulder (prefaced with the most succinct comment about Cameron and the coalition I’ve heard in a while, which needless to say got a huge cheer) and new single Living In The Shadow Of A Terrible Thing, by far the catchiest and best song Therapy? have released since their nineties heyday.
The biggest cheers, though, were of course for the old songs, and as they closed with the predictable Screamager, the crowd were certainly sorry to see them go. So, much, much better than last time, but still no Knives. Tsk.
The trajectory for Benji Webbe and his band Skindred couldn’t really be more different. His original band, Dub War, were a heavy, heavy fusion of metal and ragga, and while gaining a lot of fans never quite took off. So when he returned with Skindred, and perhaps a more accessible sound – even while using the same basic template – it was always easy to see that success would come. And it has taken a while. I first saw Skindred in a tiny venue in Huddersfield (some of you may remember Abrahams, yes?), that didn’t even have a stage, and then last year I saw them support Rob Zombie at Brixton with a set so full of energy, and great new songs from then forthcoming album Union Black, that it was obvious that their time had finally come.
Roots Rock Riot
Stand for Something
Destroy The Dancefloor
Intermission: (Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It))
Intermission (Duality Remix)
Taking a step up, of course, bands need to make a bit more of an effort live, of course, not that Skindred could ever be accused of not doing so. But an entrance to Thunderstruck got the crowd riled and ready, before the band appeared, and then Benji. In an all-white suit, complete with black hat. He looked awesome, dressed for a special occasion, and quite how nuts the crowd were going to go was proven nicely by Roots Rock Riot, whose incendiary chorus and riffage had the whole sodding crowd bouncing like loons from the off. The moshpit was pretty much spreading back to the sounddesk at points throughout the show (some feat with the size of the venue).
And it didn’t end there. All through the set, Benji and his band engaged with and encouraged the crowd to keep up with them, with song after song ripping up the place, the crowd chanting every chorus (and most verses), too, and we were rewarded time and again with better and better moments. It wasn’t just the songs, either, with some fantastic interludes: a bizarre and unexpected sidestep into one of Beyonce’s biggest hits), and a later – incredible – dubstep remix of Slipknot.
There was a nod to the fact that the very first band Benji’s old lot supported was Therapy? – and tease at one point that had a few of us wondering if he was about to roll out a Dub War song for the first time in ages, but sadly not – and it did appear that this enormous headline show, in front of a packed Academy, meant an awful lot to him. And so the final run, including a quite fabulous Nobody, seemed even more supercharged.
But that was nothing compared to the encore, which dubstep aside, was just one song – an utterly monstrous Warning that was a fitting point to end the evening on. A blistering metal anthem, that even last year, pre-release, it was bloody obvious from the bouncing crowd that Skindred were onto something. And here, that promise was proven many times over.
It has taken some years to get this stage, but Skindred really are the real deal now. A top-level metal band that are open-minded and infectious enough to be able to get away with the inclusion of dance genres (particularly ragga and drum’n’bass) that most metal fans often baulk at. But here, with a party atmosphere and a band who have tons of charisma, can pretty much act like the pied piper and take the fans with them. On this evidence, it’ll be quite a trip.