There’s something remarkable about being in the presence of a vintage reggae band, especially one as infectious as Steel Pulse. What’s more, having them back home, in the city where it all began 40 years ago, makes tonight’s event undeniably special. Dishing up one hit after another, the Handsworth Revolutionaries set the tone for a packed house that has their beaming Brummie bunch bobbing, grooving and, dare we say, ‘vibing’ all night.
Ample time between and during songs is invested in instrumental interplay, showing off each band member’s striking musicianship. Saxophone extraordinaire Jerry ‘Saxman’ Johnson tantalises the senses as his brass instrument cuts through the air, adding a coating of jazz to the layers of percussion and beautifully-crafted overdubs. Macka Splaff is incredibly churned into a 10 minute musical banquet as backing vocalist Keysha tirelessly twists, winds and grinds her body to the keyboards and drums, all whilst Amlack’s clever little guitar licks strum effortlessly amongst the snatches of percussion. The dread-locked bunch marvel in their music and feed off each other’s playful dynamics, demonstrating that age is truly but a number. Still, the memorable and powerful lyrics echoed by potent front man David Hinds, serve as a reminder that there’s solidity to these tunes, an indestructible strength that makes them gripping in their own Spartan way.
By the end of all of the eccentric dancing and bouncing beats, it quickly becomes clear that tonight has been a party, celebrating music born in an era of prejudice, mistreatment and disappointment that empowered people, and still continues to do so, 40 years on.
Words: Ivy Photiou