Raggamuffin Man

Skindred’s star continues to burn pretty brightly with a new album and a near sold out tour. Having been regulars on the festival scene over the last couple of years, coupled with timely album releases it’s good to see the hard work paying off. Tonight’s venue in Stoke isn’t the biggest but it’s packed to the rafters with barely an inch of floor space to be had. Frontman Benji just never lets up and from the opener ‘Stand for Something’ he constantly interacts with all sections of the crowd, even stopping songs after only a few bars if he thinks the crowd aren’t bouncing enough!

It’s already hot in here but over the next hour and a half it just gets hotter as Skindred whip the crowd up and duly get the response they are after. Even those up on the balcony are not spared from Benji’s cajoling and you have to admit that it works! The sound is decent if not outstanding but any deficiencies on that front are made up for with the performance. Skindred are just a great live band although you’d have to concede that at times it feels like the rest of the band is just playing second fiddle to Benji. Guitarist Mikey Demus has some fine riffs at his disposal and bassist Dan Pugley is solid enough but neither of them move about that much so it’s no surprise really that all attention focuses on the exceedingly mobile singer.

The set list draws from all three albums as you would expect with ‘Rat Race’, ‘Pressure’ and ‘Rude Boy For Life’ all preceding Skindred’s unique cover of Eddy Grant’s ‘Electric Avenue’. I must admit I had my doubts about this when I saw the track listing for the new album but they do it so well you can’t help but be impressed and hearing it live just adds an extra bit of balls to it. It’s the old favourites like ‘Bruises’ that really get the crowd going however and it’s highly entertaining watching the pit explode, followed by a succession of sweat drenched individuals heading for some respite. If there’s criticism to be had it’s that Benji does talk rather a lot and whilst it’s usually quite amusing I find myself wishing he’d just get on with it on more than one occasion.

The last 20 minutes or so are fantastic with the always well received ‘Nobody’ followed by one of the best tracks from the new album ‘Invincible’. The encore just keeps the tempo high with ‘Trouble’ preceding set closer ‘Cause A Riot’. Skindred remain a fine live band and in Benji they have a real showman; they aren’t perfect but you won’t find many (if any!) of the packed crowd here tonight complaining.