At only 6:45pm Danko Jones took to the stage to play their own unique style of rock n roll. Despite the impressive stage show put on by Jones, John Calabrese and Rich Knox, the first few songs were played to an almost empty venue as it always seems to take forever to get into the O2 Academy. The band played the first three songs back to back before Jones thanked the few people in the crowd for getting there at “three thirty in the afternoon” and “although there were only seven people cheering that it sounded like 7000 people”.
During “Full of Regret” and “Had Enough” the cheers grew as the venue started to fill. Jones again thanked the crowd for showing up early, this time at “one forty-five in the afternoon”. The set closed with the three final songs including “Lovercall”, “We’re Crazy” and “My Little RnR” which showed that their musical talent is a million times better than their ability to tell the time.
Although they have been away for a while, CKY seemed to have brought with them a rather large following this evening as almost every other person in the audience was wearing one of their fuCKYou t-shirts. They kicked off their set with “Human Drive in Hi-Fi”, “Sporadic Movement” and “Attached At The Hip” in quick succession. Throughout the rest of the set there were brief pauses to thank the crowd for coming, mentioning that it has been too long since they played Leeds and to ask how many people had been out to buy Skindred’s new album which was out today.
Before their final song of the night the band joked that they only have one big hit “that one song that goes like…” before humming the tune, then playing “Escape From Hellview”.
Prior to Skindred taking the stage there was time for a singalong to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” just to make sure the Leeds crowd were ready for what was to come. With the end of the intro Arya Goggin could be seen being helped into position on a towering drum podium. When he was joined by Benji Webbe in a studded leather jacket in the colour of the Jamaican flag the crowd went wild. Skindred chose to kick off proceedings with the title track off their seventh studio album, “Big Tings”. Big things were promised, and certainly delivered over the next couple of hours.
The band continued straight into “Stand for Something” and “Selector” without even pausing for breath which encouraged more than a few of the audience to go crowd surfing, much to the surprise of the security staff at the venue this early in the set. Next it was time for Webbe to announce that “Leeds can’t take it” when he changed the words to the song “Pressure” which got the crowd bouncing.
The AC/DC theme from earlier returned as “Pressure” became a mashup with “Black in Black” partway through the song. The mention of Leeds during the song started the inevitable “YORKSHIRE!!!” chants as soon as the song was finished, however Webbe didn’t seem happy with the audience’s ability to chant in time and made them try it again, this time with a little more rhythm.
Only being five songs into a set would normally be too soon for a band to introduce the second brand new track of the night but the quality of Skindred’s latest material and being in a room of diehard fans meant that “Machine” went down a storm, with the audience singing “Rock ‘n’ roll has saved my soul” at the top of their lungs. Webbe clearly appreciating the input the crowd screamed “Yorkshire you fucking rule” at the end of the song.
“Nina” was up next, by which time Webbe was clearly warmed up as he ditched the leather jacket. There was a strange royal request mid song when the crowd were asked to wave like the queen before reverting to the normal hands bouncing. There was talk of the good old days playing the iconic but now long-gone Duchess and Cockpit venues some years ago and a compliment to the audience saying “You’re as beautiful now as you were back then”.
After another song or two it was time for a bit of crowd interaction playing the left off against the right and teaching them the chant of “That’s My Jam” which led nicely into the song of the same name. During the song the crowd were ordered to go insane which led to a swarm of crowd surfers.
It was now time for the pace to be slowed for arguably the band’s most emotional song, “Saying It Now” which led to lights being raised. Before it was played by just Webbe and Mikey Demus on an acoustic guitar, Webbe explained the song was dedicated to a friend of the band who sadly passed away a few years ago after a battle with cancer. Webbe told the story of how he tried to visit his friend but touring schedules and life got in the way, then how he had passed away that morning just hours before Webbe was able to visit. He also urged the crowd not to make the same mistakes and not let life get in the way.
Just like flicking a light switch the energy in the room was reignited when the instantly recognisable intro to “Kill the Power” began. Just when I thought the crowd had being giving it their all, the track changed into “Out Of Space” by The Prodigy and the O2 Academy resembled an early 90’s underground rave.
When the “Yorkshire” chants began again, Webbe ordered the crowd to “Shut the fuck up, we know where we are” before making the crowd do a few vocal warm up exercises in preparation for “Nobody” which was the final song of the main set.
After what seems like an eternity the band returned to the stage to play a couple of tracks off their 2007 album Roots Rock Riot with the title track up first followed by “Ratrace”, during which Webbe somehow managed to sing the words to the nursery rhyme “If You’re Happy And You Know It” in time with the rest of the band.
As is tradition with any Skindred gig the evening was ended with the band’s anthem “Warning” and as always, the audience were encouraged to take off their shirts, hold them above their heads and swing when the music kicked in – a move the band have coined the ‘Newport Helicopter’. It is always an impressive sight when Webbe gives the order to “Go!!” and the venue looks somewhat like the inside of a washing machine.
Skindred came. Skindred saw. Skindred helicoptered.
Photos by Jack Barker Photography