The Wulfrun seemed to be under renovations until recently, but today, anything they did to renovate the place looks to be coming undone tonight. Skindred's Sound The Siren Tour hits Wolverhampton on a brisk Monday in November.
Left For Red have it turned right up, and are slaying the growing crowd as they enter the venue. With the crowd growing rapidly with each minute, and growing hungrier with each note belted out of the front man over the chugging bass, it's a slight anticlimax when only 10 people chant "Kneel before you die" for them.
By the end, there's a chant for them as they leave the stage. Job well done for them.
Next into the ring are The King Blues. And "into the ring" is an apt phrase, as they come out swinging, pulling no punches. Coming out straight into "Let's Hang The Landlord", there's no frills nor fanfare. There's no time to hang about, introducing yourselves. There's an urgency about their set. Whether it be time constraints or just no need to, because the music does the talking, they're just that good.
They start off with a kind of divided crowd, but they put a massive effort in, start circle pits and an air of unity, with people putting their differences aside and coming together to sing, dance and generally invoke the message that "I Got Love" carries; "We are one people. We are equal", and by the last note of "Save The World, Get The Girl" they've got the majority on side.
The title track of their most recent EP (released on Speech Development Records) "Off With Their Heads" is spat out with as much ferocious passion as the day you first heard it, and is still relevant, despite the line about David Cameron's alleged sexual contact with a pig's head losing a little something due to his cowardly act of quitting following the EU referendum result. The venom in the song bubbles over and when the chorus comes back around, "Off With Their Heads" is screamed back at the band with a little something extra.
There's a taster of the next album from this band, in the form of new song; "Bullington Boys", which is brilliant. It has a massive chorus, and is definitely a sign of growth from this band. If the rest of the album is as quality as this, we're in for a treat.
This is the last date on the tour for them, and it seems that their headline tour in January will have sold a few more tickets on the back of this performance. I personally cannot wait to see them again.
I've seen this band a few times before, but only in passing, never really stopped and watched the entirety of their show before. More fool me. There's an electricity in the air before the band take to the stage. It begins with AC/DC's "Thunderstruck", whipping the audience into a frenzy without hide nor hair of any member taking to the stage. But then comes an all too familiar tune. John Williams' "Imperial March" signals the arrival of Skindred to the stage. The crowd is already frantic, and the atmosphere seemingly gets more tense with the arrival of each member. So when Benji Webbe takes his microphone in hand, with the Union flag draping down like Meatloaf's mic stand, or Steven Tyler's, the tension is palpable. The room reaches a new level of loud.
Skindred slam through their opening couple of songs and address the crowd before introducing "Doom Riff", whereby the already perfectly rowdy crowd became incensed. Every word is screamed back at the band on stage, but the sound desk does brilliantly to counteract that level of noise, so you can hear the band; something more sound desks should do.
Benji Webbe is a brilliant frontman. In everything he does, there's a familiarity that also feels brand new. From the little things like the changing sunglasses and the military style coat being removed to his waistcoat adorned with medals, to stopping songs about 10 seconds in because the crowd isn't quite raucous enough, or one guy is stood still while everyone else is bouncing. But he's funny with it, in a deprecating sort of fashion. He lists off the times they've played Wolverhampton, and who they played with, including a tour with Lostprophets, which draws a resounding "BOOOO!" from the room. His response made you laugh; "Fuck off; I'm just saying". He knows what he's doing at all times.
But that's not to discredit the rest of the band. Musically tight, and they know how to work the crowd themselves. The singalong "wooooaah"s are encouraged, there's a moment where they clap, and by the second clap, there's a sea of hands. And the best bit? They're enjoying this. There's a smile on their face, they're playing the crowd, and generally just a brilliant band to complete the band after Benji's charismatic frontman persona.
There are a few surprises too. Benji asks "who's got work in the morning? Who has to set their alarm to get up?" And introduces the "Skindred alarm", which instigates a cover of House of Pain's "Jump Around", in a way you've never heard before. Then a little later, after the tour's namesake song, "Sound The Siren" and an old one in "Pressure", there's a certain Canadian pop star's song playing over the PA. Automatically, it gets booed. But Benji gets this crowd back on side by using the fact that "Metalheads love to shout "Fuck that shit!"", to incite a bit more audience participation, and has them chanting obscenities towards said Canadian pop star. That "Sorry" excuse for a song (it was Justin Bieber's "Sorry" (I apologise for the pun, it had to be done.)) gives way - quick time - to "Trouble", which is sort of the start of the end of the show.
A particularly poignant moment comes after, where Benji tells a story of a friend who had cancer, and he'd always meant to see him when he was home, but didn't until it was too late. It was beautifully told, and led into a beautiful message, and the song "Saying It Now", which loses most of the band, and is just Benji and Mikey (guitarist) on the stage. A sea of lighters, phone lights, any light source available goes up, and lights the whole room as if it were floodlit.
"Kill The Power" goes over as a highlight, with the whole crowd shouting it back when needed, but you can't talk about Skindred without mentioning the phenomenon that is "The Newport Helicopter". Reentering the stage to Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" that gets a slight remix (the kind you might hear at an EDM show (looking at you, Jack Ü)), Skindred sound out "Warning", introducing Whit Crane of Ugly Kid Joe and a girl whose name I didn't catch, to sing the chorus. Not that they needed to, this crowd drown them out anyway. But regardless, they seem to do it well.
Whit introduces himself, and tells us that it is time for this place to take off. The crowd already know what's coming, and they are all prepared. Near everyone has their top above their heads, ready to turn the rotors. Just a sea of topless people, with some adding another blade to their rotor in the form of their bra, just pushing the engine for this last burst of energy.
And it begins. As someone who has stood near a helicopter as it starts to turn the rotors, I can tell you that the ferocity with which the Newport Helicopter goes, it's a wonder that these people don't fly. It's just mesmerising to see. When you're avoiding being hit in the face by some idiot who brought a top with a zip, and can manage to see it, anyway.
I went into this show solely as a King Blues fan, but I came out as a fan of Skindred too. I'd seen bits of them before, but in a room of people that came mostly for them, as opposed to at a festival, where some are there for the next band, or as a point of curiosity, this was the real deal. This was Skindred in their own Kingdom, where they rule with their "celebration of Love, Life and Peace."
Words - Adam Reynolds
Pictures - Janine Morris