Alabama 3 live in Brighton. Gig Review!


Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3 – The Dead Reds: Concorde 2, Brighton, 31 March 2022

The Alabama 3. First – they are not from Alabama. And second, their style? In their own words – “sweet pretty country acid-house music

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

The group was born at an all-night squat party during the ’90s. Charismatic front man and co-founder Rob Spragg, started singing the lyrics to a Hank Williams song over an acid-house beat. Meanwhile, the other co-founder, the late Jake Black, a diehard Jazz fan, apparently re-joined with some bebop skat stylings. On that unforgettable night, the mutant embryo of the ALABAMA 3 was conceived.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Still adored the world over for 1997’s inaugural smash ‘Woke Up This Morning’, whose marriage of Howlin’ Wolf samples and trip hop beats provided the theme music for long-running HBO series ‘The Sopranos’, Alabama 3 have continued to explore their uniquely British absurdist twist on Americana and narcotic misadventure. The band hit a turbulent time following the death of legendary songwriter Jake Black, aka The Very Reverend D. The band have bounced back with their latest album ‘Step 13’, and have brought their show to Brighton.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

This latest album from the band will bring their new tracks, as well as old favourites across the country as they hit the road on a UK tour. They provide a ferocious thrill of energy that have cemented the group as one of the UK’s most beloved trip-hop acts. Tonight the boys are back in town, Alabama 3 in Brighton, at Concorde 2!

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

There is no doubt for me that Alabama 3 have to be one the most exciting live acts on the UK touring circuit and on the UK music scene. Their show in Brighton at Concorde 2 will be one to stick in the memory banks. They will always leave an impression on anyone who goes to see them live.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3 – The Set

The proceedings opened with an Ese Intro. A nice way to start and Ese was joined by another backing singer, Sheila, and the crowd of musicians quickly followed out.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Tranquilise Yourself Britannia is up second tonight, from the new album. “The doctor smiles like Jeremy Kyle”. A slow synth start allowing the guys to find their place on the busy stage. The beats kick in and Larry Love/Rob Spragg entered the stage to a massive Brighton cheer! They then set about wrapping us in a delicious sound from those twangs from the guitar and howls from the harmonica. Spragg drawling the lyrics in that authentic Southern accent.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

That Techno style loaded with samples and loops were clearly evident in the song, I’m Johnny Cash.

Alabama 3 are a one off mix of blues, electronica, hip-hop, jazz, rock and country. This mix of styles is seamless; you cannot see any joins with that finely tuned and well-rehearsed stage performance. These guys seemed to be enjoying themselves tonight and that was clearly picked up with the packed in crowd as they threw themselves, with vigour, into the set.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Lead singer Larry Love is a consummate showman whose gyrations could put many of those gyrating in the crowd to shame. He can move it! I turned around and looked back into the crowd and could see a mass of smiling gig goers, all with heads bobbing and those hips swinging as Spragg sings out a new one Whacked, “Everybody’s getting whacked on something” he drools.

We were treated to a power-driven rendition of favourite Woke Up This Morning. I had not heard this track for a while, maybe whilst when The Sopranos was airing. I had forgotten about this bass driven little beauty. It bumps and grinds away and the crowd loved this one with hands in the air and much singing along. It was a real treat to hear it live.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

And all the time the beat from the man at the back pounds out, the sparkling bass bounces played on a magnificent star shaped bass, Funkyal Ashton, just bumps and grinds its output into your chest, and oh my, how that harmonica wails. The intense stage lighting flashes wildly. What a show.

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Many styles and influences on show for Yolanda, a Black Lives Matter-referencing song, this has an urgent sound to it, along with a powerful drumbeat and was more than likely to drag you into the dancing mass in Concorde 2.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Hands held out or up in the air Larrys voice is smoothly melodic, it’s rich and full bodied. Tonight his vocals were supported by Ese and Sheila’s smooth backing vocal work. Magnificent! Both Ese and Sheila are part of their own outfit ESE & The Vooduu People. Go check them out.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

The guys played pretty much everything that any Alabama 3 fan could want. And including the tracks from that new album. That newer material including Whacked, Yolanda and Petronella Says are pure Alabama 3 in style and content – they are powerful and sharp and highlight that Spragg is still vocally on top of his game. A great set had been put together for us tonight. We get almost two hours of songs spanning the Alabama 3’s album releases.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

These guys totally understand the styles of country, all out dirty blues and whilst dropping in a foot tapping blast of techno. In the set was Woke Up and The Lord Stepped In (taking back control). The Lord is an all out triumph of drums and bass, its so damn catchy and the band did a top job on that one. Some great backing vocals on that. The band is the pick me up we all need; a reminder to leave bad news in the past, throw caution to the wind, and live life to the fullest. U Don’t Dance Tekno Any More powered its way into our psyche, its a slow start to this one as we jump on the last train to Nashville whilst Spraggs vocals smoothly delivers the start up lyrics. The mouth organ, guitars and drums fire up as the beat picks up. A country and Western feast for our ears that one! Hypo (shoot me up) brings the set to a close.

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I had previously met up with the Alabama guys in London at a TV recording with The Rezillos a couple of years ago at The Water Rats. What an afternoon that was! Great to see them again. Alabama 3 are carrying on with the spirit of their much missed band mate and friend, Reverend D. Wayne Love, quite magnificently. Go see the guys live. They will fill your senses with their warm sounds and send you home feeling good and with a huge smile on your face.

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

Alabama 3: photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

The crowd wanted more! And the two songs to bring the set to a close were two awesome ones, Too Sick To Pray and The Road Goes on Forever. The band had a huge appreciative round of applause and the crowd started to leave and headed out from Concorde 2 as snow was falling.

Alabama 3 are on the internet here.

The Dead Reds

So good to see a local outfit fill in the support slot. A Lewes/Brighton based outfit I had first seen a couple of years ago. When I last saw them it was a full on electric guitar rock and roll set. I remember their influences seemed to be anything that rocks and blues. Gotta love that logo.

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Tonight it was an acoustic set. I was a little surprised to see the change, but damn it was good. They have expanded out with numbers of band mates, and the stage was full of guitars and band members.

The Band:

Jez Green – Vocals and Guitar / Bethan Lees – Vocals and Flute / Miles James – Harmonica / Max Gibson – Guitar / Joss Love – Drums / Ted Randall – Washboard

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They were just fabulous. An all out smokey bluesy feel. Almost an early Fleetwood Mac sound amongst others. I managed to say hi prior to their set. As they started up they immediately got everyone’s attention. They pulled in a seriously large crowd, and they were a perfect opening band for the night.

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The sound these guys made was breathtakingly good. Kind of old school with a twist. The constant brilliant harmonica and flute playing added an interesting layer to the power from the guitars and drums. No bass tonight. This is addictive music at its best. They have now released four albums, the latest being Dictated Democracy.

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The Set: Intro – Dead Man Walking – Dark Before The Dawn – Shut It Down – Blood and Dirt

The Dead Reds were brilliant. It was a short 30 minute set made up with some 5 songs. Chatting afterwards, they explained why it had been shorter. The rest of the dates of the tour supporting the Alabama 3 they confirmed it will be a 45 minute slot. They jump out at you and stroke at your inner ear lovingly. The output all linked with some great vocals, some absolutely awesome double acoustic guitars from Jez and Max they really played those guitars hard.

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Joss on drums working in total unison, and all topped off with that harmonica playing by Miles. Let’s not forget the washboard, yes a washboard! It was played by Ted. The smoke was thick on the stage and I thought it was a pedal steel guitar! Much laughter ensued when I mentioned my mistake. The serious sounds from The Dead Reds make this a band to you have to sit up and take notice of, from the stroke of their first chord. These guys are so talented and their music is superb. Great to see them up there on the big stage – well done guys, you deserve it.

The Dead Reds: Photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

The Dead Reds: Photo by Ian Bourn for Scene Sussex

The Dead Reds are on Facebook. Give them a follow and make sure you go see them play live, acoustic of full electric – it doesn’t matter, they are bloody brilliant.

And Finally…

Thanks to Alabama 3, The Dead Reds, Sonic PR and Concorde 2 staff.

Words: Ian Bourn. Photos: Ian Bourn.

 

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