Dreadzone: O2 Academy, Liverpool – live reviewDreadzone

O2 Academy, Liverpool

Saturday 7th December 2013

“I thought Dreadzone just played festivals?” burps the pissed bloke in the pub; first off I was impressed he knew who Dreadzone were, then I began to think; and it dawned on me that I too had never previously seen them indoors, in a traditional gig venue – I’d see the Dreads at all manner of festivals both here in the UK and into Europe, each and every time their fusion of dub, folk, dance and electro whipping the crowd into a heaving frenzy; maybe it would be like Wimbledon? Put the roof on and lose the atmosphere…

I had no real reason to question the Dreads abilities, currently celebrating their 20th year together and promoting ‘Escapades’ their seventh studio album their credentials speak for themselves, so when they stepped out onto the Academy 2 stage a mighty roar broke out, heightened when Mc Spee bellows “Oi, Oi” before positioning himself on a heavily padded bar-stool and then the bass, deep deep bass kicks in, it hits you in the chest; no doubt similar to taking a roundhouse from Mike Tyson, but this time the result is no bloodied nose, instead your feet start to move, then as the bass ripples through, your arms begin to move, your body starts to sway and then as Spee hollers “Liverpoooool…it’s time to BOUNCE!!” the entire audience do exactly that – young, old, all possessed by St Vitus, everyone here to party skanking style.

In a set drawing upon Dread classics, ‘Iron Shirt’ and ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ to the magnificent ‘Rise Up’ from ‘Escapades’ along with ‘Too Late’ a huge bass heavy number which features a sample from ‘Is Vic There’ by New Wave 80′s band Department S, Spee spots a girl pressed up against the barrier – she can be no more than 12yrs old, then dedicates ‘Next Generation’ to her; this is the genius of Dreadzone; their sound which itself has evolved over their entire career instantly engages, its uplifting; connecting with acid casualties, ravers still out there in the bean field and the plain curious – no one can resist, and as the classical refrain of ‘Little Britain’ bursts forth the audience have morphed into one globular mass, arms raised punching the air to perhaps the ultimate festival anthem. They switch effortlessly from the warm and relaxed ‘I Love You Goodbye’, to rave mash-ups – this diversity demonstrates Dreadzone’s commitment their art and leaves the fans grinning with delight.

Spee despite being confined to a perched position is one of the most animated performers I have ever witnessed; sporting an 8-ball topped ebonised cane he not only sings, he drops vocal characterisations from ‘Lock, Stock’ style wide-boy before scaling heights only really possible by a small Italian castrato, during ‘Gangster’ he cocks the cane in pinpoint timing to the shotgun sample; Fred Astaire would applaud such showmanship;

Clearly Dreadzone are happiest when onstage performing; Spee may be sat down but he is throwing shapes other performers would give their right arm to achieve, and still the crowd bounce, it never lets up – maybe the DWP should employ Dreadzone as opposed to Atos, anyone who can resist dancing to Dreadzone truly deserves their incapacity benefit!!

So, a near perfect gig…well they didn’t play ‘Return Of The Dread’, all that means is that I will have to go and see them in Manchester next weekend.

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.


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