Steel Pulse at Oxford Polytechnic - gig review

Jack Barron in Sounds

17 March 1984

Piled high like some gnarled branch growing out of the top of his head, David Hinds' gravity defying dreadlocks are almost surreal, a cultural erection, both ridiculous and right.

The extra two feet or so his hair adds to his stature requires the singer-guitarist to bend down when passing through doors; it also leads him into some absurd situations.

Which is simply to say that Mr Hinds is one of the most easily recognisable people in music. And with the loss of founder bassist Roland McQueen and guitarist Victor Yesufu, David is more than ever the public face of Steel Pulse.

At the moment there's little doubt the group are England's most successful reggae export. A sold-out-solid tour of The Land of The Rising Sun preceded this present jaunt around our isles. Next month they're off to play the States and expect to attract four to five thousand punters at each gig.

So it's no surprise that Pulse are extremely professional entertainers and it's to the band's credit that they never seem to be merely going through the motions. There's feeling involved and tonight's jubilant crowd appreciates the effort.

New songs from the just released Earth Crisis LP fit snugly with old material from Handsworth Revolution nd further back. But no matter how much they alter structures and tempos there's something a little predictable about the outcome.

The band's backbone is far stiffer live than on record, even the lyrically silly Roller Skates chomps hard and everybody is dancing. Quality, true, but the militant tendency is missing. The drum and bass lines are ingenious but never rattle your rib-cage and the dub effects are dubious.

There's no sense of danger as reggae goes, it's a bit like pulling on an old sweater, comfortable and familiar. Makes you wonder, though, how David manages to get his woolies over his head.

Text copyright Sounds 1984, used without permission.

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