Skindred: reggae-rock at UEA

Canadian hard-rockers and openers Danko Jones (named after the lead singer and guitarist) begin as gig goers are still filing in, but manage to hold their attention with an animated performance. Danko draws on his 22 years in the band to create an easy relationship with the crowd. Completed by bassist John Calabrese and drummer Rich Knox, the trio’s set displays a straightforward blues rock groove with songs such as Had Enough and My Little RnR being well received.

American rock band CKY make their entrance with their mix of grunge, numetal and skate punk influences. They last played in Norwich more than 10 years ago, and fans in the audience chant enthusiastically in-between songs, prompting a smile from singer and guitarist Chad I Ginsburg, whilst drummer Jess Margera and bassist Matt Deis contribute to the band’s confident stage presence. The set draws to a close with a driving cover of GG Allin’s Bite It You Scum, thrown in alongside Head for a Breakdown from latest album Phoenix and well-known 68 Bitter Beings.

Genre-blending Welsh ragga-metal pioneers Skindred are one of the best live bands around. Their combined fun, aggression, and sentiment result in a sound like no other, and the lights go down to AC DC’s Thunderstruck before drummer Arya Goggin, bassist Daniel Pugsley and guitarist Michael Fry (Mikey Demus) take the stage, followed by frontman Benji Webbe. Clad in a jacket bearing Pan-African colours with a British flag attached to the microphone stand, he personifies the band’s message that “a Skindred show is a show of multicultural love”.

Opener Big Tings from the upcoming album has more polished sound, but the same energy as fan favourites Nobody and Pressure. Throughout the set, Benji keeps up a joking rapport with the crowd, calling them all “beautiful bastards” before the change in tone for acoustic Saying It Now – a display of emotional honesty. Written after the loss of Benji’s friend to cancer, the singer insisted he would visit him in-between tours, but never quite managed it. When he finally arrived at the house one day, he was told they had died that morning. Encouraging us to tell those we love before it’s too late, it’s a celebration of life rather than death.

The highlight of the set is a lively rendition of Warning, complete with the Newport Helicopter. A move Skindred inspired, it involves the crowd swinging shirts around their heads amidst the confused expressions of security staff. The first night of Skindred’s Start The Machine tour ends in a successful demonstration of what the band do best – bringing together people of all ages and cultures in their shared love of music.


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