Steel Pulse at Lyceum, London - gig review

Martin Townsend in Record Mirror

21 June 1980

Steel Pulse who despite the increasing sharpness of their lyrics and a skittering cliff-hanging rhythmic reggae sound that takes the best from Marley/Third World and militant dub reggae camps, still cannot attract a black audience of any considerable number. This is a shame when the banner held by lead guitarist, David Hinds - Justice, Peace, Equality - is a message that's universal.

Still, Pulse's music gets far closer than any other reggae bands' to a middle road that couldn't even by the strictest reggae purists, really be dismissed as 'commercial'. At one point in the second half of a set roughly divided by a slightly throwaway Sound System, there was a percussive break of such sophistication that it seemed at any moment that it would break down completely leaving every member of the band with a piece of wood and metal to hit and the audience in stitches. But it never happened. Steel Pulse are just too good. Songs like Heart of Stone and Drug Squad from the new album and Handsworth Revolution - dedicated to the Miami rioters - twisted and turned over Ron McQueen's wandering bass, which boomed relentlessly. The band led the audience into a chant which went on much longer than it was supposed to, underpinning a clattering disco-ish instrumental. Ku Klux Klan formed one of two encores and is probably the best thing Pulse has ever done.

Steel Pulse are aptly named. They draw the listener, without dint of drugs, into a pumping web of rhythm shot through with the steel of drums and the steel of the message. A gig of the year nomination, no trouble.

Text copyright Record Mirror 1980, used without permission.

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