Skindred, Soil & Viza @ HMV Forum, London

1st February 2014
Review by Rowena Lamb – Photography by Inty Malcolm

It’s always a sign of a cracking night ahead when you arrive at the venue early to see a nice queue forming well ahead doors opening.  It’s also a sign to get in there early and grab yourself some floor space and a decent viewing pitch.  Though given tonight’s headliners you didn’t really need any signs to know that it was going to be a packed, high energy crowd.  You can’t go to a Skindred gig and not jump about like a loon.

First up on the bill were VIZA from America.

A new one on me and a new sight to see an Oud on stage, which really brought a lovely Arabian sound to the songs.
I had been informed by my photographer in crime for the evening that this was the band to watch and standing near the front that evening I could see why.

I love the way that certain bands are able to take such varied influences and combine them into something that is both new and surprising, as well as immediately recognisable.

Listen to ‘Trans-Siberian Standoff’ as it’s a good example of the combination of so many different influences and sounds coming together.  There will be at least one of two elements that tick your boxes I’m sure.

There was a loud cheer from the audience from the start and you just need to get online and listen to ‘My Mona Lisa’ to understand why.  It’s so well done being upbeat, happy, funny and entertaining that you can’t help not liking it.

Especially with the amusing lyrics including ‘Where the hell is London, I’ve never heard of London.’

You can listen to more songs on their Facebook page and I really suggest that you do if you like world music that combines such an array of styles into one song.

There was a real happy energy from VIZA on stage and this certainly influenced the audience and I for one was immediately happy with my evening from just this band.

1.    Viktor’s Vanguard
2.    My Mona Lisa
3.    In Coins
4.    Trans-Siberian Standoff
5.    Forward March

I’d only managed to see SOIL once before but that was enough for me to looking forward to their set for weeks.

They have a natural rock energy that carries you along into the heat of the moment.  It had been steadily getting busier in the venue as the first set had progressed and given the audience numbers by the time SOIL took to the stage it was going to just a little packed for the headliners.

However before them we had another American invasion and one that was greeted very happily by the crowd.

‘Breaking Me Down’ kicked things off with a bang and if you haven’t heard any of their songs before, this wold be a good place to start.  It’s full of aggression, especially in the vocals and yet they manage to maintain a melodic sound, which everything combined is distinctively SOIL.

The choice to have several songs from their album ‘Scars’ was a great one and we were treated to some classics including my favourite ‘Halo’.

Surely there is not one of you that could stand still or silent during this song especially when Ryan McCombs descends into the crowd, whipping them up into an even bigger frenzy. ‘Loaded Gun’ comes from their new album ‘Whole’ and as a sign of what fans can expect from the album it’s a damn good one; working seamlessly between older tracks.

‘Unreal’ brought a quieter intensity to their set; though it has the usual underlay of aggression, it is a muted one that feels more like an internal battle. It was interesting to have a slower song amongst their set and for me it held a great sense of menace about it which fitted brilliantly.

A definite unexpected bonus came in the form of a cover of ‘Black Betty’ by RAM JAM which in my book could appear in every set list for any band, provided it is done well and I have to say they didn’t let us down.

Set List
1.    Breaking Me Down
2.    Loaded Gun
3.    My Own
4.    Redefine
5.    Hate Song
6.    Unreal
7.    Black Betty  (Ram Jam)
8.    Halo

After a 35 minute break the lights dim to the strains of SKINDRED‘s usual introduction songs, including the classic ‘Imperial March’ and then bam!

It’s straight down to business with’Rat Race’ and from their performance and the response from the crowd it felt that you were right in the middle of their set as opposed to at the start.  A sign of great band in my opinion.

‘Stand For Something’ had the crowd jumping all the way to the back and ‘Doom Riff ‘ just added to the mayhem and how could it not? (I bloody love that song.) There was a great mix of songs that had the audience focused throughout with some serious hero worship going on from those around me.

Another thing I love about this band is that they are predictably unpredictable and the musical mix they threw in later including the BEASTIE BOYS ‘Intergalactic’, HOUSE OF PAIN’s ‘Jump Around’ and the classic QUEEN’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ is a great example.  Another reason to like watching this band live is the comical narrative and tellings off you receive from their singer, Benji Webbe.

After VIZA’s  and SOIL’s sets I had been thinking about how the bands fitted together as they each have clearly different styles and sounds, but the main characteristic that pulls them so nicely together is their energy.  Each of their sounds are designed to grab you as an audience and pull you along straight into the middle of everything. This is high energy entertainment.

For SKINDRED this high energy entertainment requires definite audience participation whether this be jumping, shouting, dancing, whatever, just make sure you do it with gusto or prepare to be pulled up on your lack of effort.  One moment of effort you’re always waiting for is ‘Warning’ and the arrival of the Newport Helicopter which went on all the way towards the back.

It’s always amusing to watch and even funnier to watch blokes try to convince their girlfriends to take off their tops and join in.  (Tip:  If you’re not brave enough to throw of your top and do it – why the hell should she?)

When you’re thinking of high energy entertainment for me there are few that do it better than SKINDRED.  As CARLY SIMON sang out ‘Nobody Does It Better’ as the band left the stage and Benji accepted the last moments of appreciation from the crowd, I think it’s fair to say that they are aware of their abilities…and why not!

They blew me away the first time I saw them play and they have never disappointed since. They have a unique blend of different styles as well as managing to unite fans of a variety of genres under one banner.  If you have never seen SKINDRED live then you really haven’t lived.

Set List
1.    Thunderstruck (AC/DC)
2.    Imperial March (John Williams)
3.    Rat Race
4.    Stand for Something
5.    Doom Riff
6.    Ninja
7.    State of Emergency
8.    Selector
9.    Cut Dem
10.    Bruises
11.    Babylon
12.    Niggas in Paris / Intergalactic / Jump Around / Don’t Stop Me Now / Omen / We Will Rock You
13.    Kill the Power
14.    Worlds on Fire
15.    Trouble (With snippet of Metallica’s Sad but True)
16.    Pressure