Skindred have had quite the journey, from playing to a handful of punters to tonight’s attraction – headlining one of their largest tours to date – the ‘Start the Engine’ tour. Having just torn through Glasgow the night before, Bristol’s o2 Academy was up next on Newport’s Reggae Metal collective’s hitlist.
We settled in for the night’s entertainment, and were sure to be greeted with something to remember…
Unfortunately I was late to the party, so first up for the review was West Chester, Pennsylvania’s CKY.
To put it simply, if you’ve ever watched Viva La Bam or Jackass (for that matter pretty much anything with Bam Margera in it), or played any Tony Hawks Pro Skater video game then you’ve probably heard a CKY song somewhere along the line. Chants of CKY ring out through the academy as bassist Matt Deis takes to the stage, spotlights low. Bar their respective ages, the skate punks haven’t changed a bit. It’s a proven formula of simple, yet effective structure that shows a maturity gained over the years, keeping the audience enthralled whilst not having to go at a break neck pace as they once did 15 years ago. For a three piece, CKY bring about an ability to produce a sound far more associated with acts supplied with larger numbers. ‘Destroy and Rebuild’ is a psychedelic rock anthem, whilst in keeping with CKY’s trademark sound. ‘Replaceable’, taken from latest release ‘The Phoenix’ displays the vocal offense of both Matt and guitarist Chad, taking it to the crowd in unison.
Another new song, ‘Head for Breakdown’ has a grunge / garage rock feel to it, keeping the tempo slow, instead relying on simple effects through the guitar with strong vocals to carry over. It’s oftentimes a sad state of affairs to see acts keep going for as long as they have, however it would seem CKY are going to stick around and keep the good vibes going for a while yet. After a bit of banter between the band (Who are CKY?) the classic fan favourite that I’m sure you’ve all heard – ‘96 Quite Bitter Beings’ rings out, a trip down memory lane for any 90’s kids. Honestly, I’m off to grab my BMX and wear my finest Element shoes after that. Nostalgia at its finest.
And now for your main event of the evening, hailing from and representing the NP44 – Skindred. As the lights rise from the stage, AC/DC’s ‘Thunder’ cries out over the academy, those in attendance waiting with baited breath for the arrival of Benji and co. A remix of the imperial march from Star Wars cuts over the PA, Skindred marching to their positions, the crowd roaring with approval. ‘Big Tings’ opens the set, Benji in his trademark leather jacket willing the crowd to sing along. The black and white Union Jack flag hands loose from Benji’s mic stand, held out as a clear act of defiance against the current government that acts in the interests of the few, not the many.
‘Pressure’ sees the crowd surge forward, one for the long-time fan base to jump to. A moment of reflection in the madness saw Benji taking the time to tell the story of his friend Shaun, who sadly died of cancer. It’s an example to us all that no matter what your circumstance, never forget those who made you who you are, and to love and cherish everyone you hold close.
An acoustic song dedicated to his memory ensued soon after, with rapturous applause from all in attendance. ‘Kill The Power’ followed, Benji demanding the crowd chant along before remixing into The Prodigy’s 90’s classic ‘Out Of Space’. ‘Nobody’ ends the set, with Skindred returning to the stage for an encore of ‘Roots Rock Riot’ in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the same-named album. The set ends with ‘Boom! Shake the Room’ mixed into a finale of ‘Warning’.
Throughout the set, it’s clear that for a band like Skindred, there’s one word to define the Reggae-Metallers. Gratitude. Gratitude to where they’ve come from and gratitude for the point their career is currently pointed. ‘Start The Machine’ is a fitting name for this tour; Bristol put the machine into overdrive.
(Bonus points on the night awarded to the dude outside dressed like Smackdown Live commissioner Shane McMahon – hair and all. Good to see you out with us regulars)
Joshua White – Vulturehound Magazine 2018.
(All photos courtesy of Angelah Betmead Photography)