A Newport-based reggae/metal band. It sounds like two musical genres and a place name picked out of a hat at random. But as sure as Peter Tosh’s ‘Legalise It’ and Black Sabbath’s ‘Sweet Leaf’ are about the same topic, Skindred have both a sound that comes together seamlessly and the reputation of being one of the UK’s top live bands. The Newport Centre (how many gig venues are also used as swimming pools?) sees the band play one of their biggest UK shows to date tonight. And fresh from releasing fifth album Kill the Power in January, they seem more than up for the challenge.
London hardcore band Feed the Rhino play very well to a crowd who aren’t entirely warmed up at this point, but the audience’s initial uncertainty turns to certainty by the end.
With lyrics like “The president was a coward,” Milton Keynes rap metallers Hacktivist aren’t going to be George Bush’s new favourite band, but they have the Newport Centre eating out of their hands tonight. Their combination of ‘djent’-y guitar riffs and grime-y MCing from vocalists Ben Marvin and J Hurley sounds as tight here as on record, the response to ‘Elevate’, ‘Hacktivist’ and their Jay-Z/Kanye West cover inspiring some serious excitement in the crowd.
While Hacktivist capture Skindred’s genre-crossing, Merthyr Tydfil post-hardcore sextetThe Blackout capture their party atmosphere. Another band with two vocalists (“What kind of stupid fucking band has two singers?” jokes singer Sean Smith about Hacktivist), there’s a feeling that this band, and all support acts tonight, could have been improved by more time (the difficulties of having a five-band gig), but as The Blackout say how much they’ve wanted to play with Skindred, they seem like the perfect fit.
Skindred’s crowd tonight is very much of rock/metal inclinations, but they seem a crowd open to all kinds of things Skindred have to offer, responding to an excerpt of Damien Marley’s ‘Welcome to Jamrock’ in ‘Cut Dem’ as enthusiastically as they do an excerpt of Metallica’s ‘Sad But True’ in ‘Trouble’. “I want the crowd to rock, I’ll use anything necessary, except for German techno,” claims frontman Benji Webbe before the show, and this comes across in the sheer amount of crowd involvement that Skindred create. New tracks sound every bit as vital as first album favourites, and ending with ‘The Newport Helicopter’ (the crowd swinging their shirts to closer ‘Warning’) for the very first time in the city itself, anyone disappointed by the results of the Wales/England Six Nations game can at least take consolation in the fact that when it comes to rock shows, Wales is still responsible for some of the best.