Alabama 3 had plenty to celebrate last Saturday night. The band were scheduled to play the final gig of their 2014 tour back on their home turf in Brixton, at the Electric. Then, for those of hardy constitution, there’s the after party at Brixton Jamm.
For some reason, Alabama 3 have always stayed slightly under the radar. Not that it’s of any importance whatsoever to the band, who do things the way they want. Alabama 3 tour incessantly, after-party like no tomorrow and crank out new albums on a regular rate. They constantly explore and experiment, and give their huge following of loyal fans what they want: consistently high-energy, exuberant live performances, a theatre of lowlife characters dreamed up in a Louisiana churchyard twinned with a speakeasy somewhere among the mean streets of Brixton. An A3 gig is a thing of legendary beauty, and although tonight wasn’t completely sold out, Brixton Electric looked healthily rammed with a diverse crowd – some in their 20s, and others well over the 60 mark – it’s not easy to pin down just what makes a typical Alabama 3 devotee.
A3 open with Bam Ba Lam, the first track on new album The WImmin from W.O.M.B.L.E, Vol 2. It’s the old Black Betty track given an Alabama 3 flavoured redesign, with Aurora Dawn’s voice soaring above a mash of bass. It’s classic A3, mixing sexy bluesy soul with a country feel, twisted darkly with a rumbling techno edge. It’s a good start, easing us in slowly, a taste of what’s to come. Vocalist Aurora Dawn struts across the stage, a ball of energy in sunglasses and a tiny tasselled gold top which shimmers when she moves, as she mixes high kicks, squats and jumps. Yet despite her flamboyance she doesn’t hog the limelight, not with the larger than life characters of Larry Love (in usual lounge lizard mode) and the Reverend D Wayne Love to contend with. The three manage to work in harmony and perfect balance, musically and visually.
Next up is Bad to the Bone, a number from Revolver Soul, their 2009 album, a track which takes the pace up a notch. It’s typical of Alabama 3 that although they have a new album to plug, there aren’t more than a handful of the new tracks on the setlist. Two ballads make an appearance: You are The One, and, later on in the set, Aurora and gravel-voiced Larry join forces for the ballad Following Rainbows, a classic conventional ballad which sounds effective on the Electric’s stage, but just as good in an intimate setting, here with TEAfilms.
At the half-way point, the band launch into Woke Up This Morning. A3’s way of keeping it fresh, for them and for us, is to play around with it, give it some tweaks: this time it goes deep, techno-fuzzy, a bit squelchy. Similarly Hypo Full of Love sounds somewhat deeper and darker, although this track which can really get the crowd bouncing along, apeing the band’s ‘down low’ dance step, didn’t quite do it tonight.
For an encore it’s my personal favourite, Too Sick to Pray and it sounds bang on fabulous. Alabama 3 have done us proud tonight. Next time I won’t wimp out on the after party.
THE SMALL PRINT
WHO: Alabama 3
WHEN: December 13, 2014
WHERE: Electric Brixton