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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 

ALABAMA 3 ACOUSTIC AND UNPLUGGED
The Roundhouse, London, August 12th 2008

Alabama 3
We’re back at the Roundhouse for another of their series of intimate nightclub-style evenings. I guess the thinking behind these is that it’s difficult to fill a big venue in August – what with the holidays, and multiple festivals every weekend.

But the formula isn’t quite right here. In the first place, as I have said before, you simply can’t make the Roundhouse seem small. Then the layout is all wrong – we’re at tables, but they’re not nightclub tables, they’re function (or even, dare I say it, ‘banquet’) tables. There are six of us around a table big enough for a dozen, and any self- respecting nightclub owner would have us at a table a third of the size. So there’s almost more table than people, and the atmosphere suffers accordingly. Not that Jozzer, Trizza and the rock-chicks seem to mind as they work their way through bottle after bottle of pink and rather tasteless wine (“It was hot” says Jozzer a few days later, as if that’s an excuse) . But Alabama 3’s Larry Love does. “I don’t play no motherfucking chicken in the basket shit for you motherfuckers” he splutters, to the delight of a largely adoring audience, “motherfucking chicken in the fucking basket gigs!” he snorts to himself with amiable derision.

Alabama 3
From top to bottom:
Larry Love, Rock Freebase, Nick Reynolds aka Harpo Strangelove and Devlin Love
Readers may remember that when we last saw Mr Love with his full band he seemed, let us say, somewhat the worse for wear, so I’m delighted to report that the Roundhouse, intimate or not, witnessed him with his acoustic outfit, in scintillating form, even if his newly-acquired grey beard did give him an unexpected (and not very long-lasting) aura of venerable gravitas. The acoustic band are as good as ever, driven by Rock Freebase’s pulsating slide guitar and Nick Reynold’s harmonica. I have to say the guitar playing is as simple and uncluttered as it could be, ‘though I don’t quite know how Mr Freebase manages it (have a look here to see). The charmingly diminutive Devlin Love’s powerhouse vocals give the quartet additional drive as they work their way through a set including ‘Converted’, ‘Woke up this morning’. Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, ‘Bullet proof’ (“for all the ladies with Saturday night specials in the audience”), ‘Two heads’, ‘U don’t dance 2 techno’, ‘Too sick to pray’, ‘Let the caged bird sing’, ‘Up above my head’, ‘Monday don’t mean anything to me’ and ‘Johnny Cash’, at which point I gave up taking notes, largely due to the genteel mayhem that was breaking out around me. Oh yes – and there was an encore including ‘Love will tear us apart’, not perhaps the best choice.
And thinking about it, great fun though it was, the gig could have been unremarkable had it not been for the orange-juice-drinking Mr Love’s garrulous good humour. He had a lot to say on a variety of everyday subjects: binge-drinking women (could he have been looking at our table – by this time the girls had given up glasses and were using straws?); the hugely irritating and perky pop-chanteuse Kate Nash; MDMA (‘Monday don’t mean anything to me’); bi-polar disorder; not surprisingly Johnny Cash (the A3 have contributed a track to Johnny Cash Remixed, produced by John Carter Cash and for release in October), and of course God (it seems Love, aka Rob Spragg was brought up in a Mormon household, or so I read somewhere recently).
And it’s funny to hear Love’s gloriously improbably southern American accent descend into his native Welsh brogue (he was brought up in various south Wales Valley towns). And when he gets really excited (perhaps it’s his medication) he can barely get all the words in his head out of his mouth. He is thoroughly captivating, ending the evening navigating between the tables, encouraging members of the audience to attempt Johnny Cash impersonations. Sometimes you just want to go out and have some honky-tonking fun, and simple though it is, it really doesn’t come much better than this. - Nick Morgan (photographs by Kate)
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