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ALABAMA 3 - London Brixton Mass - 20 December 2000   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Wednesday, 19 May 2004
Get Converted....

(Alabama 3 / ADF / Mark Thomas / Rob Newman / Ed Byrne / Fast Binder : MOJO benefit Brixton Mass, 21 December 2000)

Benefit gigs. Dontcha just love em? Fading rockers with half dead careers covering a dead guys songs. A bunch of empty stadium gestures. Or a half full community centre in deepest darkest Brixton, freezing cold, at the depth of winter, hosting a fundraising rag for falsely convicted political prisoners. Jeremy Hardy, a comedian of mediocre talent but great sincerity, is a dutiful host, and the first four acts are unbilled comedians - Junior Simpson, being first, whose act isn't so much political as racially aware and actually, subtly quite racist.

Next is Ed Byrne, a infamous outspoken Irishman who has made several TV appearances and also, incidentally, begun a political aspect to his work. The last time I saw him, he came on at a hometown show in Ireland, punching the air in a boxing robe to the Rocky Theme, to fight against a stone bust. How age and guile has tamed him, but only in this respect. His material is still fierce, and in this context he is more political than ever, but still does not move much beyond the limited subject matter of Builders and the like.

Third is Robert Newman, a faded 90's pretty boy pinup. Former author, columnist, and general media figure who dropped off the edge of the world in 1995. Holder of the record for the biggest UK comedy gigs, headlining Wembley Arena with David Baddiel until usurped by Eddie Izzard recently. To see him perform, unannounced, to about 50 people in Brixton is bizarre. But worthy. His style - confessional, covert, whispered - remains. But his content has shifted from the vaccous and self-obsessed, to the fiercely political, aware and revelatory as Jello Biafra mixed with the satire of Bill Hicks. His act encompasses the political arena ranging from WTO summits in Seattle, Prague, protests across the world and the hypocrisy of the powerbase. It's as revelatory a shift as "Rattle & Hum" to "Achtung Baby" - and the only time I have learnt that the way to smuggle a gas mask into a military state is to pretend to have a 'rubber cocky' and a bunch of other paraphenalia. Learned, revelatory, informed - a man dwarfed in his past.

Mark Thomas. You know the deal. A man who feels like a journalist trapped in a comedian's body - and in a backstage chat reveals that he tells is only what he can prove, not what he knows. He's one of the best there is and I am still astounded that Johnny Public chooses dull dross like Jim Davison and Lee Hurst over comedians with brains and vision.

Fast Binder - musical dross funk trio. Uninteresting. Then a speech from Paddy Hill - who spent 16 years in prison falsely convicted of terrorism as part of the Birmingham Six. His speech is impassioned, regarding the corrupt of the police and the 'prior notice' that police being investigated have, and the lack of notice the innocent have. Of course, it goes without saying a conviction - right or wrong - often closes a case, and a human life is not a major cost.

Final act of the night for me are Alabama 3. Neglected by their record company and the general public, this band are a great and unrecognised jewel in the British music scene with their somewhat unique blend of Country and Western, Techno, Rock and Blues. The seven piece band - in matching silk shirts, cowboys and shades - are great and tight, and start off with the sly comedy of Woke Up This Morning as the two front men - Rev Wayne Love and Rev Larry Love - trade off raps and lines with sly humour and self-aware comedy, being a mix between an evagelical preachers and fallen Elvises trying to snort their way to heaven. High point of Woke Up This Morning, is some surreal synchronised dancing as the band do Elvis poses and conga across the stage and the Rev Wayne Love looks as if he has enough difficulty just standing up and some girls in the audience snort coke.

Hypo Full Of Love, with its 12 Step Plan of religious conversion as the Rev D Wayne Love declares from behind his wide eyes, unkempt hobo hair and stained white shirt that we should embrace his philosophy and devote all our worldly possessions to him, is a bizarre hymn to chemical abandon. The fusion of rock, techno, blues, country and western and whatever they can find is slick, fluid, and visionary. As the set continues, the set descends into rabble. For Mansion On The Hill, Arthur Baker offers backing vocals behind a fedora and a black leather cowboy hat, the crowd sing happy birthday to Paddy Hill, the awesome U Don't Dans 2 Techno Anymore is rejigged as a linedancing, fist-in-the-air-punching hoedown that goes at 343bpm, and Mao Tse Tung is the most coherent praise of ultra-communism you can dance to.

Theres not much more in the way of praise I can offer. Buy "Exile On Coldharbour Lane." You won't be disappointed.

Set: Woke Up This Morning, Hypo Full Of Love, Too Sick To Pray, Cocaine, Sad Eyed Lady, Mao Tse Tung Said, Walking In My Sleep, You Don't Dance To Techno, 2129, Mansion On the Hill, Wade Into Water, Peace In The Valley, Speed Of Sound Of Loneliness, Sinking.

ADF. No idea what tonight's performance is like. By the time I leave, 2-00am, they still haven't played. I'm not a vampire, and I need my sleep so here's a review. They rocked whilst I slept.

Overall. Damn good. Value for money, fun, enjoyable, and for a (choking of sincerity) good cause. Fight The Power That Be.



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