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Everything Alyce: Skindred - Oxford O2 Academy, 12/11/16

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Skindred - Oxford O2 Academy, 12/11/16

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While Skindred were performing downstairs, there was another band upstairs: Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown. Their ticket sales were rather low, so the venue had a special offer: if you were a Skindred ticket holder, you could get free entry to the upstairs venue. Of course, I took advantage of this opportunity, turning the day into a mini-festival! My review of the other show will be up soon: I'll edit the link in here as soon as it's finished.

I've nearly attended a couple of Evarose shows in the past: being from Banbury, they're a fairly local band. Sadly, life has always gotten in the way, so this was my first time actually seeing the four girls live.
I walked in towards the end of 'Glitch', startled to see that the room was already filled to bursting. I've seen some poor turnouts for opening acts recently, and I was ecstatic to see Evarose had attracted such an eager crowd. It must help that they're local to Oxford: they play a lot of shows in the city, so I'm sure a lot of the people in attendance had heard of them before even if they hadn't yet seen them live. But being a group made up entirely of girls, I'd been nervous in case they didn't get the crowd response they deserved.
I was wrong to be worried about something like that. The audience were extremely receptive, hollering and hooting at the end of each song and filling the venue with applause. Vocalist Dannika Webber has a very powerful voice, and she shines when she's on stage. With such a charismatic frontwoman it's difficult to dislike Evarose, and even though some of their songs sounded similar I found myself enjoying the set despite that, and their half an hour stage time flew past.
I think I might prefer Imogen Leslie's backing vocal to Dannika's main vocal, which was something I hadn't realised until seeing them live. She elevates 'Provoke Me' to another level, but I think it's the contrast between the two vocals that makes it such a powerful moment.
I always love seeing and supporting bands with female members, because a lot of them have a tough time cracking into the industry. I'm so glad that Evarose got this opportunity, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again in the future.

Setlist:
Glitch
Shedding Skin
Telephonic
The Cause and the Cure
Provoke Me
Vice

I didn't stick around for much of Raging Speedhorn. I hadn't even heard of them this time last year, and now I've seen them three times in six months! From the songs I did hear 'Bring Out Your Dead' stood out the most: even though the band have existed for almost 20 years they've still got a talent for songwriting. Their new album, 'Lost Ritual', was released back in July - if you're a fan of heavier music and screaming vocals, I'd definitely suggest you give it a listen.
I was more excited about discovering new music, which is why I left their set, but based on the scream of "Oxford, I see a whole lot of fucking people and no fucking movement. What the fuck?" I can imagine the end of the set was much more explosive than the already riotous beginning.

This was also my third time seeing Skindred this year, after many many failed attempts. Opening their set by playing 'Hey Ho, Let's Go' by The Ramones, AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' (ironic, as the band upstairs - the previously mentioned Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown - supported AC/DC on their UK and European tour earlier in the year, their very first visit to the UK) and 'The Imperial March' by John Williams over the speakers, ten minutes of their stage time evaporated before the band had even appeared.
This was the only thing I didn't particularly enjoy about Skindred's set.
Their hour and a half stage time only featured eleven of their own tracks, because a huge chunk of the set was dedicated to playing pieces of backing tracks. The three intro songs, the tongue-in-cheek sampling of Justin Bieber's 'Sorry' and a half-assed cover of House of Pain's 'Jump Around' all came in the bulk of their set, and their one song encore was cushioned by a jokey song about "wearing Peter Griffin's waistcoat", a brief bit of Black Sabbath with the screech of "heavy fuckin' metal!" and the speakers playing 'Nobody Does It Better' by Carly Simon as the band left the stage. That's eight songs that weren't their own.
I had a lot of fun at this show. I was very disappointed when I saw Skindred at Download and didn't get to see much of their main stage appearance at Reading Festival, so this was easily the best I'd seen the band before. It's just dissatisfying that they could have performed a lot more songs if they'd just stopped messing around and relying on cheap tricks.
If they didn't have such brilliant and energetic songs, it would make sense. But when their setlist is filled with catchy tracks like 'Doom Riff' and 'Trouble' they don't need to fall back on other people's music to make fans enjoy their set. Even before they were on stage everyone in the room was dancing, bouncing and throwing their drinks in the air, and when the band came out they built the crowd into a frenzy of jumping and arm-waving, making this one of the sweatiest and most exciting concerts I'd been to in a very long time.
Vocalist Benji Webb isn't afraid of speaking his mind and, despite the audience being up in the thousands, at times it felt as though he was speaking to everyone individually, making the night feel extremely intimate.
Towards the beginning of the set he enthused that coming to a Skindred show wasn't "coming to another fucking concert. You're coming to make friends and have a good time. If you hate fucking gay people? Get the fuck out. If you hate bisexual people, get the fuck out. If you hate Muslims, get the fuck out. If you hate niggers like me, get the fuck out. At a Skindred show, everybody is welcome. [...] We are all soldiers of the Skindred army now." Making a speech like that in the same week that Donald Trump was elected as president and riots kicked off across America, it was extremely poignant, and it wasn't surprising at all that the crowd roared in agreement.
But his speeches weren't always so positive. Introducing acoustic track 'Saying It Now', he told a heartbreaking story about his friend Shaun, who died from cancer. "He told me to come back and see him another day," he shared, "and I said Shaun, I will mate, I will. But life gets in the way of all the things you should fucking do." I wasn't surprised when he admitted that he turned up on Shaun's doorstep, finally finding the time to go and see his friend, only to be told that he'd passed away that same morning. "If there's anybody in your life that you keep putting off, go and fucking see them," he demanded. "I never told him I loved him. I never said 'I love you, bro', and that's what fucks me off to this day. I couldn't share my love with him because I couldn't go round to his fucking house. Bullshit." I wasn't the only one that was nearly in tears, and I was touched by the fact that Benji was willing to share a story so personal with his fans. It's moments like that that make Skindred feel more like friends than a famous rock band.
I was disgusted by the fact that a large proportion of the crowd talked over every word that Benji said, and a lot of them continued talking while the song started. When a band are playing an acoustic song it's obvious if people are talking and not paying attention, but when it's a song that has such a deep meaning it's horrendous for people to be so oblivious to the pain laced through every word that Benji was singing. By the end of the song the entire crowd had fallen silent, attention captivated by the power in his voice as he reflected "I'm saying it now, but I wish I'd said it before". A good amount of people got their lighters and torches up in the air, particularly after Benji encouraged them and said "this is the part where you get your phones out!", but it shouldn't have been so difficult for the headline band to get the respect that they deserved from their crowd. Unfortunately this utter disregard for acoustic songs and artists seems to be a prevailing attitude at shows recently, something that I hope will change sooner rather than later, as the acoustic moments should be the most special and memorable in a non-stop evening like this.
Other than that, I think the crowd made this evening for me. Just like the soldiers Benji stated they were, they followed his every command as though he was their commander, putting both hands up in the air when he demanded it, feet off the floor more than on it when he kept asking them to bounce. Nearly everyone in the room participated when Benji told them to crouch down and jump up, but no reaction was as explosive as the one during 'Warning', in which the crowd performs the Newport Helicopter - taking their shirts off and spinning them around their heads in a whirlwind of movement.
While this wasn't the best show I've ever been to, the energy was astounding and it's been a long time since I've left a concert having had so much fun. Benji shared at the beginning of the set that they "ain't played Oxford in a long time" but had played since "there were 25 people in the Zodiac", so I wouldn't be surprised if they chose to return to a place that's given them so many memories. If you didn't get tickets to this show because it sold out, make sure to buy your tickets earlier next time they tour: I promise you that you won't be disappointed.

Setlist:
Under Attack
Rat Race
Doom Riff
Ninja
Jump Around cover
Sound The Siren
Pressure
Trouble
Saying It Now acoustic
Kill The Power
Nobody
-
Warning

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