Saturday 14 May 2011


Brighton Dome, Sat 7th May, part of the Brighton Festival.
(Photo taken in Berlin by Libertinus.)

It is not normal practice to start a gig review with what the reviewer saw on the telly the night before. But bear with me...

The night before, this reviewer watched a documentary on the telly about Primal Scream. At one point Bobby Gillespe asserted “the great thing about us is that we’re not really a band.” He then broke off, unable to quite articulate what he meant.

What I think he meant was that they were more a collective. A band ends up with a guitar solo and a keyboard line on every track because they have a guitarist and a keyboard player, and they want to keep their turf. A collective is amorphous, free to float in and out of every territory that interests it. (The irony being that for long periods Primal Scream have been just a band, and it usually led to the tiredest of rock and roll clich├ęs. They needed to break from those mooring to do anything worth listening to.)

I’ve now seen Asian Dub Foundation more times than I can actually remember, including (unusually for a laggard like me) relatively early in their career. Despite the collective-sounding name, I thought of them as a band in the best sense of the word – a lean and efficient machine, a bunch of guys united in a common purpose, driven to what they were doing. (“An Asian fights back, can’t afford to be meek/ With your back against the wall you can’t turn the other cheek.”)

But when they lost Deeder, their original frontman, quite literally on the eve of the millennium, they kind of lost their point - in the way a knife might lose it’s point. Key member Chandrasonic, effectively the Jerry Dammers of the band, was still aboard. But from that point they had collective-ness thrust upon them...

This led to what Homer Simpson calls a “crisotunity”, throwing them into things they might never otherwise have attempted. I thrilled to their live soundtrack to ’The Battle of Algiers’, premiered in 2004 at this very venue. But I remember that night above their gigs, which were no longer hitting as hard as they used to. It’s like it was hard for the collective to turn back into a band. So, given this night came with something of a concept, I wondered who would show up - band or collective?

Proceedings open with some spacey music, complete with violins, set to a video recording of a speech by Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. All very collective-like...

...only for things to explode with passionate fury. Turns out they now have a new frontman, Al Rumjen, to hold things together. (Unbenownst to me, he was even on the previous album.) The tracks were almost all new to me. But it’s the most intense I’ve seen them since the early days.

 It also turns out that their new release, ’A History of Now’, as part of it’s themes of refugees and globalisation, comes replete with guest stars. And we get all those guest stars tonight – Chinese violinists, Romany singer Kerieva, Indian drum troupe the Ministry of Dohl, a chap called Flutebox (who somehow seems able to beatbox and play the flute simultaneously) and others I think I am forgetting.

The result is a kind of win-win situation. The live unit of the band keep it forever tight and focused, the ceaseless parade of guest stars keep it fresh. They’re hitting you ceaselessly, but from ever-new angles. It’s like they’ve become band plus collective.

Another point worth emphasising... this is not the product of dilettantes, parading a self-conscious eclecticism, like that party trick where someone juggles three incongruous objects. It sounds a seamless blend, the musical corollary of their antipathy to closed-minded racism. This is underlined by the rhythm section, a combination of turntable beats and live Indian percussion. It became surprisingly hard to tell one from the other, several times I thought a beat music be electronic only to realise it was being supplied live.

In a fitting gesture, the guest stars played their own set on a small stage in the bar afterwards, sometimes separately, sometimes jamming with each other. Like an over-spilling glass, there was simply too much energy to keep inside one set list...

Nazis have Screwdriver. We listen to Asian Dub Foundation. Which side would you rather be on?

From Paris, last month...


  1. ADF is really amazing. I failed to come over at brighton but it was on my organizer to come. Im anticipating ADF's next gig, hopefully could come. Thanks for the video mate :)

  2. Cheers! If you like reggae (and I'm guessing by your blog that you do), then Lee Perry and Adrian Sherwood are on in Brighton tonight! Off there in a bit...

  3. I made it in Brighton but it was halfway done when we get there. It was hell of a party :)

    Thanks for the info sir..

    Can you hook my blog on your Haunts & Hangouts Sir?

  4. Shame if you missed Max Romeo, he was good as well.

    I'll try to write something up about the gig, but I'm afraid I've become fearfully behind in my postings all over again! There's just too much good stuff going on at the moment!

  5. Well, there are a lot of good happenings all over. How i wish I can always go on those events.

    once again sir, can you include my blog in your Haunts and Hangouts (Blog Roll) :DDDD