Jagermeister Tour 2012: Skindred, Therapy?, Black Spiders, and The Defiled
Brixton Academy, London, Friday 13th April
Words by Nicholas Holmes
Photos by Tess Donohoe www.tessdonohoe.com
In August last year, purely coincidentally following a Morrissey gig, Brixton Academy was at the centre of the riots which caused mayhem across the city for several days. There really was panic on the streets of London. Fast forward several months, and Friday 13th April proves lucky for thousands of fans keen on a more convivial type of chaos – the Jagermeister Tour featuring four of the best bands in modern British heavy music. Even better, the tickets cost just a fiver, and this show sold out ages ago.
Theatrical Londoners The Defiled opened the show, but unfortunately after a long journey from the South coast they were missed by yours truly. Judging by excited banter in the crowd later, they certainly made a big impression in what was apparently a short but spectacular set featuring gory costumes, scantily clad girls and a riotous soundtrack. Damn. Definitely have to catch them soon!
Sheffield five-piece Black Spiders have come a long way since they opened for The Wildhearts back in 2009, my first sighting of them. In the past three years they have become festival favourites around the European circuit and it is easy to see why. Despite the relatively early stage time, the venue is rammed and the band’s cheeky brand of rock n’ roll goes down a storm. The driving “Stay Down” and hilarious anthem “KISS Tried To Kill Me” receive a wild response, with a significant amount of the audience singing and shouting along. Tongue-in-cheek rocker “Just Like A Woman” also has the place shaking, and the band instigate a call of “Fuck you, Black Spiders!!!’ a la the infamous crowd reactions to Bad News back in the 1980s. Great fun.
It is a long time since Northern Ireland trio Therapy? played venues of this size., It is debatable how much they might remember of those shows back in the heady days of the mid-90s. Tonight they are every bit sharp dressed men, in neatly fitting suits and looking remarkably healthy. While the USA was gripped by Seattle fever, the Norn Iron band made their own version of alternative rock and frenetic opener “Teethgrinder”, from 1992’s “Nurse” album, has not dated at all. Another thing that has not changed is their trademark reverse pogo dance, which vocalist/guitarist Andy Cairns and bald-bonced bassist Michael ‘Evil Priest’ McKeegan break into at various points through the set. They mix old favourites with newer material, as the band have continued plugging away putting out new albums. “Exiles”, from 2009’s “Crooked Timber” is an eerie bass-driven track and “Get Your Dead Hand off My Shoulder” is all clattering rhythms and staccato structure. Inevitably the most enthusiastically received songs are from the classic “Troublegum” era. “Die Laughing”, “Unbeliever” and a pumped up cover of Joy Division’s “Isolation” have the crowd bouncing and roaring along. They wind up with the whirlwind double whammy of “Nowhere” and “Screamager”, the latter of which still has one of the best lyrics ever about teenage angst and relationships. As Cairns himself observes at one point, “Fan-feckin’-tastic!”
The AC/DC classic stated, “it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll”. Skindred’s history began two decades ago when frontman Benji Webbe’s band Dub War seemed to open for just about every decent rock act going, but then they imploded in unfortunate fashion. From those ashes, Skindred rose and it is has been a slow burn of constant touring and often spectacular festival shows, doing it the old school hard graft way. So, this Jagermeister-sponsored tour is a big step up for the Welsh band. Fazed? Not likely.
Following a double intro of the aforementioned Down Under legends’ “Thunderstruck” and Darth Vader’s “Imperial March”, Skindred open with a double dose of 2007’s “Roots Rock Riot”. The title track and “Rat Race” immediately push the audience over the edge. The combination of nuclear strength booze shots and the rabble rousing of ringleader Webbe, decked out in white suit and top hat, have the bodies flying. He is a master of his craft, and even evokes the spirit of Freddie Mercury both in white attire and the call-and-response “woooaaaahhhh!” games with the audience. Yes he is that good, displaying a confidence borne of years building up to a moment like this with almost 7,000 hanging on his every word.
“Cut Dem”, a song from last year’s “Union Black” album, gets an airing followed by several more fast and furious tracks from the back catalogue. Thought-provoking “Stand For Something” and a raging “World Domination” keep the energy levels at maximum, and the ragga-tinged “Doom Riff” has the entire venue jumping to its breakdowns and “wooooaaaah!!!” chants. “Roots…” resurfaces with “Destroy The Dancefloor”, which does exactly as the title says. Long-time live favourite “Pressure”, from their 2002 debut “Babylon”, shows Webbe’s ability to sing cleanly and not unlike Massive Attack collaborator Horace Andy. It also includes a crunching lick of AC/DC’s “Back In Black”.
A brief pause has Beyonce’s “Put A Ring On It” over the PA, leading to Hispanic influenced “The Fear”. Possibly the closest Skindred get to a ballad, although rather than lovey dovey lyrics it is actually a riposte to badly behaving males. The pace picks up again with aggressive and defiant “Game Over” and stomping anthem “Trouble”. The main set closes with a truly incendiary “Nobody”, with crowd surfers and manic moshing aplenty. Huge cheers also greet an interlude of Slayer’s “Raining Blood” in the middle of the song.
After a blast of the remix of Slipknot’s “Duality” over the speakers, Benji and the band return, the former displaying his own dual persona. He is decked out in full pimp-style gear, a red velvet-type suit topped with bling that Mr T would be proud of. They pummel the crowd with one final blast, the savage “Warning”, which shows that after so many years in the business Webbe has not mellowed one bit. As the sweaty, drunk crowd spill out into the night with Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” playing, Newport’s finest have risen to the occasion. Brilliant.
The Defiled https://www.facebook.com/thedefiled
Black Spiders http://www.theblackspiders.com/
Skindred, Black Spiders and The Defiled will be appearing at Download Festival, Donington Park.
Full details here: http://www.downloadfestival.co.uk/