Quite a lot is often made of the fact that Alabama 3 are, to quote the Guardian, "The best live band in the country".
As I’m sure you’ll be able to imagine, I entered Leeds Met with some rather high expectations. It should be noted at this point that I usually try and avoid overly busy gigs, and I also try and avoid gigs that are full of students. Thus me even considering a sold out show at Leeds Metropolitan University is quite a rarity.
I’ll say right from the start I wasn’t disappointed. The show was easily worth the drive over from Hull, and I certainly wouldn’t have begrudged paying the £15 entrance fee. Best band in the country though? That might be pushing it a bit.
There were a couple of problems with the show for me, and I’ll get the negatives out of the way first. The sound was, on the whole, excellent; throbbing bass pulsated from the speakers, and the floor shook in time with the kick drum. The multitudes of instruments (From 303s to acoustic guitars and a harmonica) sat pretty much exactly where they should be in the mix. The vocals, however, were a little on the low side. This wasn’t a huge problem most of the time, but it was often difficult to decipher what frontmen Larry Love and D Wayne Love were saying, both during songs and inbetween. This did detract from the show rather, as the often rather loopy lyrics are a big part of Alabama 3’s charm. The only other issue I had was that for me at least, the band played a bit too long, almost two hours in fact, including the encore. It wasn’t massively overlong, and it was only towards the end that my interest began to wane, but I always prefer to leave a gig longing for more, rather than thinking “if they’d played a couple less of the similar songs I could’ve been home for half eleven”. And a lot of the songs are quite similar, especially with the vocals getting lost in the mix.
But really, despite the length of the preceeding paragraph, these are relatively minor concerns. The sheer insane majesty of the Alabama 3 live experience is truly a joy to behold. What’s particularly pleasing is that the band don’t rely on fancy lighting or stage pyrotechnics or any such nonsense. Alabama 3 themselves are pretty much all the stage show you need. Although a 9 piece band, it’s only really the two frontmen that anyone focuses on. The Reverend D Wayne Love and his cohort Larry Love are truly a sight to behold shimmying and swaying across the stage. Larry is like a cross between Sly Stallone and Elvis at his Vegas zenith, only skinny, with just a hint of your embarrassing Uncle dancing on new year’s eve. D Wayne is vaguely reminiscent of Jools Holland,with slicked back hair, a pencil moustache and a natty suit. You’ve never seen anything like these two. The pair share the stage with Devlin Love wearing a spectacularly tight pair of trousers, but she never really diverts attention.
The songs played were mainly from the debut album Exile on Cold Harbour Lane and the recently released M.O.R, with only two or three tracks from the interceding 5 albums. Favourites like Woke Up This Morning (Theme to The Sopranos, as if you didn’t know) and new single Lockdown were suitably rousing, but the selection could have been a bit more varied, too many of the techno / dubby tracks blended into one, whilst great tracks like Amos Moses were omitted. The band were at their strongest when doing the more traditional lyric based songs like Holy Blood, so it’s a bit of a shame that more of these weren’t played. With a different crowd, the techno set may have worked better, but a fair proportion of the audience looked a bit like my dad, and not many people were dancing.
Still, an excellent show was put on, and judging by the amount of smiling faces outside afterwards the majority of the audience had a great time. I was certainly one of them.