“This is the most vulnerable Skindred fans have ever seen, yet that only strengthens the connection”: Skindred bring ragga metal anthems, beach balls and more than a little emotion to their monumental Wembley Arena show

Hot off earning Tiktok stardom and scoring a UK number two album, ragga metal masters Skindred play a career-affirming showcase at one of London’s most legendary venues

Benji Webbe of Skindred onstage
(Image: © Harry Herd/WireImage)

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Skindred took 25 years to become an overnight success. At the start of 2023, the Welsh ragga metal crew were heavy music’s ever-reliable party force, most often seen during late afternoons at Download, Bloodstock and Reading And Leeds to get fields of festivalgoers limber. Then Tiktok caught wind of them. 2002 song Nobody went viral via an online dance craze, helping the band’s following album, Smile, reach number two in the UK charts and score them a coveted MOBO Award.

More than a year since first igniting online, Newport’s finest are still riding that wave of momentum. Tonight marks their biggest headline concert to date, making them the latest in a score of British metal acts, from Sleep Token to Malevolence, who’ve exploded in popularity since the pandemic. However, as a collective accustomed to massive stages thanks to all those inhibition-relaxing festival slots, Skindred show no intimidation in the face of this new apex.

Instead, an opening Set Fazers declares this lot are every bit as self-assured now as they’ve always been. Frontman Benji Webbe swaggers onstage in a shimmering black getup, barking out infectious reggae melodies while bandmates Mikey Demus, Arya Goggin and Daniel Pugsley deal in stomping, invigorating metal. It’s a mixture that quickly gets Wembley Arena both jumping and singing in unison, with anyone left static being roused when oldie Pressure follows. The Babylon standout even gets a Back In Black verse spliced into its bridge: such is Skindred’s commitment to getting everybody invested as quickly as possible.

The excitement continues through Rat Race and World’s On Fire, before reaching another apex during That’s My Jam, where Benji commands different halves of the crowd to scream the different halves of the hook: “Whoop whoop!” and “That’s my jam!” All the while, the singer is unwaveringly confident and even confrontational, his sweary stage banter keeping this near-13,000-capacity arena entrenched in the palm of his hand. Torrents of confetti and beach balls flying from the stage also keep the vigour alive throughout these 80 minutes.

It’s not all fun and games, though. What’s long separated Skindred from bullshit party metal bands like Alestorm (bar the fact they write supremely better music) is the messaging underneath: so many of their songs, especially on Smile, seek to inspire unity, regardless of colour, gender or sexuality. All-out reggae jam L.O.V.E. (Smile Please) says with Bob Marley And The Wailers-esque cheeriness, “We want the right vibe, no negative vibe. Everybody in this place, you know we are the same tribe.”

That focus becomes even more tangible before Kill The Power: Benji offers an evocative speech about his parents passing when he was aged seven and 11, then about how he was inspired by the mixed ethnicities and good-time tunes of The Specials.

With the song If I Could being dedicated to Benji’s son, who the frontman says has previously faced a drinking problem, this evening heralds the most vulnerable Skindred that fans have ever seen. Yet, that only strengthens the connection between the band and the capital’s masses. Closing crowd-pleaser Warning inspires one of the biggest and most partisan Newport helicopters in history: the latest spectacular achievement in what, over the past 12 months, has been a staggering and long-deserved rise.

Skindred setlist – Wembley Arena, London, March 15

Set Fazers
Rat Race
World’s On Fire
That’s My Jam
L.O.V.E. (Smile Please)
If I Could
Kill The Power
Life That’s Free
Gimme That Boom

Our Religion

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.