Ruts DC
Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
6th September 2012

The Ruts DC are back on the road & they’re just as good as ever says macthehack who caught them at a recent show in Birmingham.

Ruts DC are not The Ruts, let’s get that clear straight away.

As if to emphasise the point the band kick off with ‘Whatever We Do’ from Rhythm Collision Vol. 1, a warm song that embraces the audience with its laid back groove and Segs quietly defiant vocal. Extraordinarily it’s almost 30 years old, but still sounds like an old friend, even shorn of the brass and mouth organ that were features of the original.

Bridging that gap without missing a beat, the band move into new number ‘Militant Soldier’ from the forthcoming Rhythm Collision Vol. 2 (hey, if the title ain’t broke, why fix it?), with Segs and Dave Ruffy’s dub adventure complemented by new(ish) recruits, guitarist Leigh Heggarty and Seamus Beaghen on organ and backing singer Molara completing the Ruts DC 2012 model.

Taking in a couple of highlights from the dark, brooding Animal Now album, including a still vituperative ‘Mirror Smashed’ – songs Segs has admitted he finds as difficult as anything in the Ruts / Ruts DC history to sing, given the turmoil they were going through after losing their friend and singer – it’s back in the groove. Or is it?

Just as the crowd are happily getting into the infectious dub reggae of the Ruts DC, with Segs as genial as ever at the mike, effortlessly setting his bass to ‘rearranging internal organs’ frequency – kind of the dub equivalent of ‘going up to eleven’, but in a good way. Then with a shift in the lyrics and suddenly we are into a dub/ska take on ‘(They Got You With) SUS’.

It works.  It really works and there’s a frisson of excitement as people realise we might just be getting the next best thing to The Ruts, by the only people who could be doing it.

The familiar, doleful opening bass notes to ‘It Was Cold’ (perhaps the first ‘post-punk’ song?) are the final confirmation that we are indeed in for a special night, as gradually the Ruts DC reach back into history and gloriously celebrate some of the best, sharpest and most intelligent music to have come from that late ‘70’s musical and cultural revolution.

The Ruts were there – no matter what you may have read in some accounts of the time – and they mattered. Tonight in the capable hands of Ruts DC, they mattered again. ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’ and ‘West One’ soared like the great songs they are and perhaps most remarkable of all they even performed a quite beautiful version of ‘Love In Vain’. A song so inextricably linked to the late Malcolm Owen, that you suspect it took a fair bit of bottle, even now, for Segs, the reluctant front man to attempt it.

But they didn’t just attempt it, they conquered it. A genuinely touching lament for their absent friend and a reminder of the power and range the Ruts possessed, which was part of what set them apart.

After a glorious tear up through set closer ‘Babylon’s Burning’, the band are almost trapped onstage by a delirious packed out crowd.  Segs admits there’s no way – short of crowd surfing – they can get back the dressing room and so the band launch straight into their encore.  The only possible way to finish a night of high emotion, altogether now…’If you’re in a rut…you gotta get out of it’!

Catch Ruts DC live at:

Fibbers, York, Sat 20th October

Islington Assembly Hall, Tues 30th October

100 Club, Oxford St.  Sat 22nd December

The Ruts DC website can be found here.

All words and image by macthehack. You can read more from him on LTW here.

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