The Guv’nor reviewed in the NME, 23 April, 1978, by Adrian Thrills. Steel Pulse on the same bill, now that’s a gig. The write up gives a good taste of those late 70s gigs.
It seemed strangely appropriate that a British reggae band should headline at, and virtually sell out, a major rock venue the week before this Sunday’s massive Carnival Against the Nazis.
And with this Roundhouse triumph and a single on the verge of the chart, Steel Pulse are the living proof that British reggae finally seems to have arrived in a big way.
The audience was unexpectedly Hard Core punk – many of whom seemed to be there as much for the pose as the actual music (never mind the riddims, luv, just watch yer don’t smudge me Black-Star Eyeliner).
Steel Pulse, like many of the home grown roots reggae bands, still suffer from an identity crisis. As someone once said to me at a Black Slate gig “They sing a Bob Marley song like Bob Marley and a Ken Boothe song like Ken Boothe”.
Still, despite sound problems on stage and a set which seems to be cut prematurely short, there are signs that the forthcoming “Handsworth Revolution” album is going to get a lot of more people moving towards the Pulsebeat.
Visually they are imposing – vocalists Fonso Martin and Michael Riley decked out in preacherman togs and David Hinds in stencilled HM Prisoner gear.
And if the band are laid back, even for reggae – and thus not as easy to dance to as others – their great strength is the percussive power they wield. Meaty drummer Steve Nesbitt is at the core of some of the most subtle rhythmic twists and turns I’ve heard in a long while.
Noticeable by its absence was their excellent one-off single for Anchor, ‘Nyah Love’, but the encore was the inevitable ‘Ku Klux Klan’, the white hoods donned by the singers as they returned to the stage remaining as frighteningly powerful a visual ace as the first time I saw the band last year.
The Police opened the evening’s proceedings and somehow I don’t think A&M have gambled as inspiredly with this aging bunch, who last year backed Cherry Vanilla, as they did with Squeeze.
Classic bandwagoners, their leather jackets and peroxide hobs are just a thin veneer disguising well-played, cliché-ridden Heavy Metal rock.
It’s one thing being solid, boys, another altogether being dense.
I’ve often wondered when, if ever, John Cooper Clarke was going to go down as well with a London crowd as he does in his native Manchester. Even at last month’s Buzzcocks Lyceum bash, our one and only Beat Poet, had to fight a stream of abuse and a glass shattered horrifyingly inches in front of him. But at the Roundhouse, he went down the proverbial storm.
Twitching and stamping nervously behind those impenetrable black shades, Johnny recite a testimony that proved poetry isn’t only something you stock the shelves with in libraries (or something in the sole possession of Patti Smith, either).
‘The Monster From Outer Space’, ‘Bronzed Adonis’ and others are greeted like the hits they deserve to be. “He makes love like a footballer – he dribbles before he shoots”, was one line that stood out from a newer piece.
Over twenty minutes, he provided an entertaining interlude, although it’s not the stuff of which headliners are made.