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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan

The Forum, Kentish Town, London, May 14th 2010

My new fangled digital notebook tells me that it’s seventy-nine days since we saw the Alabama 3 at the Forum, so you may rightly consider this review to be a little overdue (where does all the time go?). However this is as nothing to the wait we have endured for the A3’s new album, Revolver Soul, originally scheduled for release last November and only now finally ‘in the stores’ (a colourful but now largely redundant saying from yesteryear). 

D Wayne Love and Larry Love

Like most of their recent stuff it’s a bit of a hit and miss affair with some very strong tracks, and some less so.  The album boasts a parade of celebrity guests, including (in addition to stalwarts such as Reverend B Atwell and Errol T) Shane MacGowan, Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell, the unlikely Aberdare Stabbers (Aberdare, coincidentally, was birthplace of the recently deceased former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable), and DJ and rapper Tenor Fly, who is on the stage  this evening to sing ‘Hostage’.  In addition to this, the band have just released a remix of ‘Jacqueline (one of the better songs on the album) featuring the E Street Band’s occasional Soprano, Steve van Zandt. The new album was co-produced by Segs Jennings, who has rejoined the band as bassist and musical director.  However there is a very noticeable space on the left hand side of the stage normally occupied by The Mountain of Love, aka Piers Marsh, programmer, harmonica player, founder member of the band and ‘analogue terrorist’.  Depending on which story you believe, Marsh either quit the band or was fired by their ‘management’; word has it more changes may be on the way.

Alabama 3

Starting with ‘Soulja’ and ‘Bad to the bone’ the band take the stage draped in camouflaged fatigues, reflecting the anti-war theme that permeates the new album.  Frankly it’s not the most flattering garb for men of a certain age.  Be that as it may the band deliver a characteristically spirited performance, led from the front by a hugely energetic Larry Love, supported by the rapping Reverend D Wayne and singer Aurora Dawn, still standing in during Devlin Love’s maternity leave.  Steve Finnerty’s guitar-work added a distinct rock character to many of the new songs, and interesting foil to Rock Freebase’s country-blues and slide guitar. 

Not for the first time, keyboard player The Spirit defied all expectation by making it from the pub to the stage, and then remaining there almost upright for the whole set.  “The theme tonight is angry” said Love, as he introduced ‘Up above my head’, now a staple of Alabama 3’s live set, a powerful tune built around Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s famous blues refrain.  About half of the songs came from the back catalogue, and half from Revolver Soul, including ‘Hostage’, ‘Jacqueline’, ‘She blessed me’, ‘Keep your powder dry’ and ‘Vietnamisation’, a twenty-first century take on Country Joe MacDonald’s Woodstock classic, focussed on the current conflict in Afghanistan.  Older songs included ‘Woke up this morning’ (with Nick Reynolds playing Marsh’s harmonica part), ‘Johnny Cash’, ‘Woody Guthrie’, ‘Rehab’, and ‘Hypo full of love’.  Love, accompanied by two floor-mopping orange-boiler suited roadies and The Spirit’s intoxicated piano also sang a surprisingly touching version of the ‘The thrills have gone’.

Spirit of Love
The Spirit of Love

The encore featured a rather disrespectful reinterpretation of ‘Mao Tse Tung’, reshaped as ‘Mickey Mao’ (with Love wearing a Mickey Mouse facemask) and ‘Too sick to pray’, which was a timely reminder amidst all the nonsense, of the real potency of some of Alabama 3’s song writing, as well as their performances. – Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)

Listen: Alabama 3 on MySpace

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