Alabama 3 – The Warehouse – 15/11/09
Despite ordering tickets for this way back in August, somehow Seetickets were still unable to get them to me before the date of the gig. That meant a box office pickup on the night where I got stupid paper till receipts instead of a proper ticket stub for the collection. Ah, the joys of being a pedantic, middle-aged concert-goer. Anyway, minor quibble out of the way, the support band were already onstage as we got drinks at the bar and found a suitable vantage point.
Krakatoa – shit name but good band. They’re a young five piece form South East London. They have that scruffy, indie/mod look about them and have a wee singer that glares from the stage with bags of attitude while belting out the lyrics in a broad Cockney twang. Musically, they draw influence from the 60s mod sounds, thru 70s punk and reggae but somehow give it a current edge. There’s a nod towards the likes of Babyshambles or the Arctic Monkeys and yet they sound like neither. Not your typical Alabama 3 support then. The songs are catchy and well constructed, using a wide range of different rhythms and tempos, from reggae beats to waltz timing. Something just a wee bit different that sets them apart from their contemporaries. Good words sung with conviction too. Although it was my first exposure to them, I was pretty impressed and I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from these lads in the coming months.
The stage is quickly cleared. It’s lit in blue from the back and the PA starts pumping out a hybrid of big acid beats mixed with delta blues at ear splitting volume. It sounds great, the bass drum hitting you square in the chest and making your heart think twice about beating. My wife commented that she’d never sat on a vibrating lavvy before following a quick trip upstairs. (If anyone knows what it was they were playing, leave a comment here – I need to get my hands on a copy). The dance floor steadily fills up until, after about twenty minutes or so, the band take to the stage. Larry Love is looking older and Devlin Love is missing. Away on maternity leave, her place is taken by a black girl named Aurora who looks the part. The Spirit is in his traditional fur coat and bowler hat looking more corpse-like than ever. They kick off with a new song but the sound isn’t right. The vocals are too low and there’s no bottom end. Mind you, that’s maybe just in comparison to the interval music!
A roar goes up when the Reverend D Wayne Love shuffles onstage beaming. As the familiar intro to Hypo Full Of Love, we decide to head down to the front and fight our way through the swaying crowd reaching the second or third row before we’re forced to stop. It’s really loud and I’m struggling to pick out much other than the incessant beat of the song, but everyone around me is mesmerised, grooving along to the lazy rhythm. I’m not feeling too bright though and decide to leave my wife to it and head back out of the crowd and secure a vantage point right at the back of the hall where I can see OK, hear brilliantly and it’s much cooler.
This allows me to see the Alabama 3 crowd in all its glory. Punks, drunks, hippies and freaks stand side by side with executive types who look like they’re on an office night out. From teenage to old-age, male and female in equal numbers, it seems as though the A3 cover the whole demographic. But there’s one thing plain to see. The people who “get” the Alabama 3 (and I know a few who don’t), they reeeeeeally get them. It seems that every single person in The Warehouse is dancing, every single one singing along to the Sweet Pretty Muthafuckin Country Acid House Music, waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care.
The band feeds off this bonhomie and play to the crowd with numerous references to Aberdeen both in the between-song banter and inserted into the lyrics. The set contains material from all their albums to date plus a few new songs from the forthcoming album Revolver Soul, including a preview of their new single Jacqueline. Of course all the favourites are fired out. Woke Up This Morning, Power In The Blood, Mao Tse Tung Says and Woody Guthrie are all met with a great response. A storming Up Above My Head shows that new girl Aurora is more than capable of filling Devlin’s shoes, her vocals, perhaps a little more soulful, complementing the song perfectly. Too Sick To Pray finishes the main set and the band make their way off.
After what seems like an age of stamping and cheering, Larry Love returns to the stage and treats us to an acapella rendition of the Country Joe & The Fish classic, I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die, buying a few extra minutes refreshment for his bandmates. When they join him we get a fantastic extended workout through Converted. Larry then tells the crowd that the Alabama 3 never say Goodbye at the end of a gig, they always say Hello. So after some Beatles inspired vocal shenanigans they finally kick into a stomping run through Hello, I’m Johnny Cash, wringing the last ounce of energy out of the dancing crowd before leaving us with a wave, presumably hello.
At times tonight, I felt they were just a wee bit formulaic, a wee bit “seen it all before” – this having been my eighth or ninth time – but as I make my way through the throng of red, smiling faces to eventually find my sweat-soaked wife, I realise that I’m probably just being uncharitable. I mean, their “big” songs are so good, how could they not play them. And then you can only fit so much stuff into a 90 minute set. No, the Alabama 3 still know how to throw the best party in town and I’m sure I’ll be there again next time they’re passing through. New York Johnny.