Live reviews

Alabama 3 – Rock City, Nottingham (03/10/2005)

It’s nice to go to a gig from time to time and look around, feel young. It doesn’t happen that much for me these days, but tonight I think it’s going to be one of those nights. Most of the people here are definitely older than my 33 years. It’s Nottingham’s Rock City on a Monday night and everyone is waiting for the Alabama 3 to hit the stage.

First we have to go through some sort of gruesome initiation ritual. They’re called The Council, they’re quite noisy, and you can’t hear the words. They’re so earnest and misguided about their ability, it reminds me of the time I was in a band that everybody else knew was never going to make it. Maybe I am getting old after all.

After a sufficient amount of pain and a brief reprise an utterly lovely tonic takes to the stage. She’s (fabulously) called Devlin Heart and she’s obviously sold her soul to the devil because she has the voice of an angel. She’s such a sight for sore eyes that my heart sinks a little when she leaves the stage. Even though I know it means the A3 will be on soon I think I could watch her sing her songs for a little while longer.

After some vaguely irritating bird noises, it’s the familiar sound of sweet pretty country-acid-house music and seven men take to the stage calling themselves the Alabama 3. They know exactly what the people here want and they deliver it pretty much perfectly. The set is a mixture of old and new and wait for it – there’s Devlin again, darting on and off the stage, dancing with aplomb, hitting all the right notes in the songs and in the audience.

It’s a set heavy with tunes from “Exile on Coldharbour Lane”, which may be what a lot of people here want. Highlights include the anthemic “U Don’t Dance to Tekno”, the now infamous “Woke Up this Morning” and “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” which starts as if it’s going to go nowhere and ends leaving you feeling as if you’ve gone round the block a few times. It’s that post-exertion adrenaline rush just kicking in. Truth is though the new song’s are the ones that come out best of all. They sound fresh and smoother than they sound on the album. When D.Wayne tells you to keep your shades on you’re left wishing you’d brought them with you on this autumn evening. “How Can I Protect You” gets everyone trying to out do Devlin with the fancy moves (though of course no-one can). “Have you Seen Bruce Reynolds” is my only gripe. I know the man’s lad is in the band and I know that he went on to show great loyalty to his gang, but his life is not one for celebrating so joyfully. He’s no Robin Hood. He masterminded a violent and selfish crime in which only a handful benefited. Where’s the song to train driver Jack Mills who was struck violently on the head with an iron bar that could have killed him?

Anyway, back at the gig and the Alabama 3 have thankfully moved on to “Up Above My Head” and the crowd loves it. The A3 seem duty bound to ensure that everyone enjoys themselves and deliver their duty with pleasure. As they leave the stage D.Wayne tells us that he’ll get his hair fixed and be back another day – which made me laugh.

But they come back for an encore and thank God. We couldn’t have left without “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” which is a fine tribute to an even finer man. With at least nine people making the Alabama 3 that night they’re final song is “Mao Tse Tung Said”. It seems to last forever, which is good because nobody wants the night to end. Finally the Alabama 3 leave the stage, some of them actually stagger off, and I think just about everyone leaves Rock City feeling that little bit younger than they did before they arrived.

Steve Dyer



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