Review by Brady Deeprose (Photo by Erin Considine)
It’s a cliche, I know, but the atmosphere here is electric. As a regular at The Vault, I’m used to turning up just before doors and strolling in, unobstructed. But this is no ordinary gig. Skindred, Wales’ biggest reggae-metal export, have brought their rollicking Union Black tour to the small town Rugby, and the crowd are ready.
After heavy queuing, I was bundled into the nightclub-cum-venue in crowds I’d never witnessed there before. Openers Huron played to at least a half-full Vault and their aggressive breed of metal core was met with general approval. Their later, more groove-ridden, tracks were better received and a few heads were banged: much to the lead guitarist’s delight.
Following them, Idiom took to the stage and after a shaky opener, had the crowd in the palm of their collective hand. With their accessible brand of alternative metal and energetic live show, this was the performance of a band surely heading for success. Single ‘Beast Of Bodmin’ was noticeably well performed and it was clearly a crowd favourite.
When IDIOM left the stage, there was a long wait while it was re-set for the night’s headline act, the mighty Skindred. Being local to the venue, I felt the same sense of anticipation as the rest of the crowd as this was the biggest band to have ever taken to the Vault’s stage. As expected, they did not disappoint.
Strolling casually out onto the stage to a remix of the ‘Imperial March’ from Star Wars, Skindred needed no encouragement to get the crowd going exploding into ‘Roots Rock Riot’, one of their more metal influenced tracks followed by the fast paced ‘Rat Race’, both form 2007’s Roots Rock Riot. The anthemic ‘Stand For Something’ united the crowd after one of Benji Webbe’s legendary speeches. He asked the crowd how many of them had illegally downloaded his music. After a hearty cheer, he retorted with some choice language before making his point: ‘It doesn’t matter how you get the music as long as you get out to shows, especially on a local level, and buy merch. Spend your money!’ This seemed to be a recurring theme for the evening, as the band seemed to be making a stand for live music and metal as a genre.
Without being caught still for too long, Wales’ finest launch into ‘Doom Riff’, a track from this tours album, Union Black. This had almost the entire crowd off their feet “bouncing”, as Mr Webbe put it. To keep the atmosphere at a high, Skindred played a lot of material from their heavier debut Babylon and ‘Trouble’ was no exception. If trouble was what you needed, the Vault was where to get it. As soon as the songs breakdown section kicked in, the pits were off, surprisingly violently for such an intimate venue. Much to the crowd’s disbelief, ‘Trouble’ ended with a rendition of Metallica’s ‘Sad But True’, voted one of the heaviest riff’s ever. It didn’t feel out of place amongst Skindred’s modern alt-metal, a feat that certainly impressed me. ‘World Domination’ followed, a bustling mix of fast paced metal and reggae style rap. It’s tracks like this that show off Skindred’s unique song-writing style alongside their ability to really get a crowd going. Progression has always fuelled the band and that has never been more evident than on Union Black. ‘Cut Dem’, the next track performed, has heavy electronic influence and is performed stylishly, with the audience loving every second.
After teasing the crowd with the intro of ‘Bruises’, Skindred barrel into ‘Pressure’ to really get the crowd dancing, especially with their ‘Back in Black’ outro. Benji then decided it was time for Rugby to ‘Destroy the Dancefloor’, and that’s certainly what they did. Pits erupted in the centre of the room as the people of Rugby were determined to put themselves on the map as a quality crowd. This was even more evident with Skindred’s supposed last song of the night, ‘Nobody’. Filled with aggressive vocals and a heavy chorus that had people losing it left, right and centre, this would have been the perfect set closer if everyone wasn’t waiting for the hit single ‘Warning’.
After a quick break, Skindred returned to the stage to chants of their name mixed with, would you believe it, ‘Wonderful Christmas Time’ by Paul McCartney. Obviously, as this is a Skindred show, it was remixed to high heaven with Drum and Bass beats and improvised lyrics. A sense of humor is always welcomed by a metal crowd with everyone joining in for ‘Simply having a wonderful Skindred time’. Thinking we were clear of covers, Skindred pulled a Dubstep remix of Slipknot’s classic ‘Duality’ from nowhere and had everyone “skanking” or whatever it is the kids do these days. The real fun began half-way through set closer ‘Warning’, featuring guest vocals from Idiom’s singer Matt Sharland. In the pre-breakdown riff, Benji gets the crowd to perform a Newport Helicopter. For the less Skindred-savvy reader, the Newport Helicopter is a unique form of crowd interaction whereby each person takes off an item of clothing and holds it aloft in waiting. When the breakdown drops, everyone waves their respective clothes: it looks awesome. I’ve been part of it at a few venues before but nothing compared to what happened at the Vault, I was even hit in the face by an eager local.
As the song ended and the band left the stage, Benji stayed at the front and sang along to Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does It Better’ with a large part of the crowd attempting to shake his hand: it summed up the evening really.
The night was a success on all fronts. One of the fastest growing metal bands around performing a stellar set at what is looking to be a regular circuit venue, and it went off without a hitch.
Setlist: Imperial March Intro, Roots Rock Riot, Rat Race, Stand For Something, Doom Riff, Trouble, World Domination, Cut Dem, Pressure, Destroy The Dancefloor, Nobody
Encore: Wonderful Christmas Time (Paul McCartney Cover), Duality (Slipknot Cover), Warning (Feat, Matt Sharland of Idiom)