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.

WHO: Alaba­ma 3
WHEN: Decem­ber 13, 2014
WHERE: Elec­tric Brixton

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