On The Town

Steel Pulse at The Roundhouse - gig review

Adrian Thrills in NME

29 April 1978

NME advert for the gig at The Roundhouse.

Steel Pulse on stage at The Roundhouse, April 1978.

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 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 they 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 were signs that the forthcoming Handsworth Revolution album is going to get a lot 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 evenings 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 jobs are just a thin veneer disguising well-played, cliche-ridden Heavy Metal rock. It's one thing being solid boys, another altogether being dense. John Cooper Clarke was also on the bill.

Text copyright NME 1978, used without permission.

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