LIVE REVIEW: Alabama 3 @ O2 Academy, Newcastle (21.03.15) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The small crowd at the beginning of Alabama 3’s set was a worrying sign, and perhaps a factor in why the band took a while to find their feet. But it soon became clear that a lot of people had fallen victim to the Academy’s standard Saturday early start (due to their club night curfew) and as the venue filled up, Alabama 3 responded by raising their game after a rather leaden first few songs.

I’ve seen Alabama 3 dozens of times – they were essentially the soundtrack to my decades of Brixton living – and while this was far from their best, they still managed to invigorate an initially sluggish crowd (the pilled up kids down the front notwithstanding). Their ‘lifestyle choices’ may be starting to show signs of taking their toll on Larry and D. Wayne Love but those two are natural showmen with a rapport born of twenty years of hard touring and late, late nights, while comparative newcomer Aurora Dawn was as feisty and charismatic as ever.

Nothing much changes in the Alabama 3 sound: it’s still essentially an unlikely but effective (and entirely sincere) blend of country/ blues songs with techno and house music, topped off with a keen but often overlooked political nous. While some of the new songs passed me by, nothing can diminish the power and jubilance of Hypo Full Of Love, Woke Up This Morning or a particularly storming version of revolutionary anthem Mao Tse Tung Said (“.. change will come from the barrel of a gun”). An unexpected and heartfelt rendition of The Old Purple Tin (9% Pure Heaven), their gospel-tinged paean to Tennents Super, sealed the deal.

Photograph: Lee Fisher

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