Concert Review by Mark Bayross
The Camden Underworld – Monday 26 March 2001
The third in Alabama 3’s “Month of Mondays” saw the Brixton collective move their sights from country & western and gospel, to another part of their sound – techno. The cavernous Underworld – which must seem like home to these guys by now – was as packed as it had been on previous Mondays, while the fog of dope smoke seemed to have become a permanent fixture at the venue.
Kicking off with a set of cranium-rattling beats courtesy of DJ Arthur Baker, aided by a slideshow intercut with live video footage, the band took the stage to a rapturous reception. Cowboy-attired singer Larry Love began crooning the opening verse of TOO SICK TO PRAY before a bassline the size of a truck kicked in and the crowd really started to move. Amid the head-long collision of musical styles that is Alabama 3, these two elements were the most consistent features of tonight’s performance: Larry Love’s tuneful baritone and that rumbling bass.
The band mixed and matched cuts from both albums, although the dancier debut EXILE ON COLDHARBOUR LANE translated better to the beat-heavy brew. The only time the electro-rhythm relented, in typically perverse fashion, was for an acoustic rendition of U DON’T DANCE TO TEKNO, for which co-frontman The Very Reverend Dr D Wayne Love berated the audience: “Nine million dollars worth of electronics…” he insisted on repeating in his unbelievably (and presumably deliberately) awful faux-redneck accent.
…And so it went on…an hour and 45 minutes of euphoric trip-hop and twisted blues guitar, while an array of guests got up on stage to take the mic and the Alabama 3 collective displayed a startling ability to improvise and still sound fantastic.
They finished with MANSION ON THE HILL and GONNA BE ALRIGHT, although not before unleashing a heavily technofied WOKE UP THIS MORNING. For the encore, Larry Love was joined onstage by Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six, who gave a rousing speech about the erosion of civil liberties and the right to a fair trial, around which the band performed a moving rendition of “The Thrills Have Gone”.
Paddy has just launched MOJO – an organisation to defend the wrongfully imprisoned – and this concert gave him an ideal platform to draw our attention to the cause. Nonetheless, the show had to end in a more upbeat fashion, and the mischievous SHOOT ME UP was the ideal way to wrap things up.
Yes, indeed Alabama 3 have shown that, not only can they handle their country and their gospel; they are pretty handy with a bit of thumping techno too.