Live Review : Skindred + Sonic Boom Six + Scare Tactics @ O2 Academy, Liverpool on December 15th 2018

Why is everyone at Def Leppard tonight? Don’t they know the real party is on Hotham Street? Newport “Ragga Metal" pioneers Skindred are back with their “That's My Jam" tour, and I’m ever in the mood for the kind of fun packed shenanigans that the band routinely bring to their live shows. I flew out the house without my bank card and my train home has been cancelled, but even that doesn’t dampen my spirit. I might just have to walk 17 miles home, that’s all.

Opening tonight is Liverpool’s very own Scare Tactics. The local lads have some impressive credits to their name with appearances at Download and Bloodstock. Citing influences from Pantera, to Steve Vai, to Dream Theatre. The band offer up some tasty riffs that seem to resonate tones of early Faith No More. There’s an admirable chunkiness to the overall sound which works well with the groove of the music, and the vocal harmonies between Andy and Marty are faultless. Scare Tactics are well received by the audience, but I've said it before. The Scouse love the Scouse and I think the crowd shows a considerable amount of love for the band.

Next up is the ever popular Sonic Boom Six. For some reason this band has alluded me in recent years, so I'm interested to see what the buzz is about. From the first chord of the opening track Sonic Boom Six display an infectious energy that would capture the attention of even the most Grinch like super serious music fans (side note – if you stand at a gig scowling at the bands, are you ok hun?). Laila K is rock musics answer to Lily Allen, delivering a punchy, bouncy vocal performance, backed up by a likeable Barney. The crowd bounce and skank along to the punky beats and it's highly obvious that fun is at the very core of the music they make.

There is a short wait between Sonic Boom Six finishing and Skindred starting, and then... Wham! Anybody playing that game where you try to avoid hearing “Last Christmas" for the entirety of December is now out. I have made friends with king of the goths at this point (genuinely how he was introduced to me) and I'm singing all the cheese ridden Xmas tunes they have blasting over the speakers. He doesn't look too impressed and we’re all grateful when the music switches to Thunderstruck by AC/DC. It's time.

AC/DC fades out of into Skindred’s entrance music of choice. The Imperial March with breakbeat drums (what else?). Benji Webbe struts out on stage, the flamboyant frontman draped in a union jack flag and wearing the kind of glasses you'd expect to see at a Cyber Goth rave, huge spiked goggles.

The band open with ‘Big Tings’, the titular track from the latest album, before launching into sing along ‘Selector’. The crowd hang on to Benjis every word and the mosh pit opens properly for the first time this evening. I lose my goth friend as I go bouncing instead.

Then I kind of lose track of what they play and when they play it. I hear fan favourites like ‘Rat Race’ and ‘Ninja’, mixed in with new songs ‘Machine’ and ‘Thats My Jam’. It's my own fault. I’m just dancing and having so much fun, singing “NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE” at the top of my lungs.

The band end with ‘Warning’ and the signature ‘Newport Helicopter’. As I am wearing a dress I debate my participation in the move which has now become associated with the band since Download 2011. I decide I can fling my heavy faux leather jacket around my head. It nearly kills everyone as it cant quite gather the same momentum as my peers hoodies, and there’s a large clunky belt buckle that slaps “thud thud thud" on every rotation.

One of the most appealing things about Skindred’s set tonight is how genuinely good they sound. There's no sloppy guitars or lazy vocals. Its a musical kaleidoscope of metal and reggae and punk and ska and electro that is delivered with a love that feels as fresh and new as it must have done when the band first emerged from the ashes of Dub War. I personally have been a huge Skindred fan for well over a decade now, and after all these years I can still show up to any Skindred show and say “That's My Jam!".

Words by Sarah Cummings
Photography by Richard Yates