Ritz, Manchester, 2/4/2015
published: 18 /
Billy Seagrave watches seminal reggae band, despite having coming on stage very late, play both an accomplished and enthralling set at the Ritz in Manchester
Steel Pulse, who formed forty years ago in 1975, arrive in Manchester with an excellent pedigree.
If you don’t already know them, Steel Pulse was the best of the many excellent British reggae bands of the 70s. Contemporaries of the Clash and Bob Marley, they started out on the British punk scene working alongside artists such as the Stranglers, Generation X and the Police as part of Rock against Racism; this early standing has been the backbone of the band.
The doors are due to open at 6.30 p.m. as a strict 10.30 p.m. curfew is being implemented as it is a midweek gig, and a queue is already forming.
The first indication of the night’s proceedings begin to unfold when three men exit the Ritz, one carrying a guitar case, and walk past the queue of people waiting to enter. A ticket tout walks up to one of the men and asks, “Do you have any spare tickets? I buy spare tickets.” It brings about a wry look from David “Dread” Hind, the lead singer of Steel Pulse, and a chuckle from me. The tout changes tact - “Do you want to buy a ticket”? Note to the aforementioned tout, do not try and sell a ticket to the main artist, especially as there are tickets still available on the door. The group disappear into a taxi.
The doors finally open at 7.10 p.m., and the support band Jeramiah Ferrari are still sound checking.
Right on time Jeramiah Ferrari begin their support slot, playing a great set of punchy rocky reggae/ska tunes. They are into the second song when all stage lighting disappears. The crowd all move forward to use the torches on their phones to throw light on the band who flawlessly carry on.
The lights are restored and, and after a warm appreciation from the crowd for Jeramiah Ferrari, we are all set for the Introduction of Steel Pulse.
The band is due on stage at 9.00 p.m. By 9.20 p.m. some of the crowd are asking when the band are coming on. At 9.30 p.m. the band arrive back at reception, and their set begins 9.40.p.m.
The crowd is very patient. As soon as the set begins, all thoughts of lateness are forgotten. The first first few tracks fly out as if they are trying to make up for lost time. Things settle down and the masses that have assembled simultaneously dance in rhythm to the reggae beats, as keyboards, drums, bass, guitar and saxophone work effortlessly in harmony with the vocals.
‘Roller-Skates’ and ‘Babylon Makes the Rules’ have the crowd in full voice,
While ‘Hands Up I Can’t Breathe’ sees arms aloft, the introduction of ‘Handsworth Revolution’ brings to the fore the power and belief of a band who have transcended social, racial and political stereo genders and a crowd mixed with black and white reggae followers and punks, old and new. The performance is accomplished, their belief simple and the music honest and diverse.
The curfew is also extended and we have a late finish.
Photos by Billy Seagrave