Steel Pulse at Bingley Hall, Stafford - gig review

Alex Skorecki in Record Mirror

1 July 1978


Steel Pulse / Bob Marley & The Wailers

This was Marley's one and only concert in Britain on his present tour of Europe, a singularly unusual venue for those used to city gigs. Bingley Hall is a sort of agricultural astro-shed set out in the fields beyond the suburbs beyond the town - in other words the middle of nowhere. Rumour has it that Wembley had been selected but permission to use it was not forthcoming. Or it just could have been that Marley's head was on a higher plane while things were being finalised. I mean to say, Wembley, Bingley, what's the difference after a few spliffs.

The choice of Steel Pulse as support was appropriate, being the best known British reggae name around at the moment. Their act is both visual and political. Their costumes - prisoner's uniform, 18th century servants dress, etc - seem symbolic of their history of slavery and colonisation.

Lyrically their songs, like Tom Robinson's, are specific in their subjects, with titles like Steve Biko, Handsworth Revolution (Handsworth being the Birmingham ghetto-suburb they come from), National Front and the highlight of their performance Ku Klux Klan for which the two vocalists wore Klan-like hoods. A truly provoking and effective act. Steel Pulse were received enthusiastically and set the right atmosphere for the Wailers appearance.

Spotting Marley's unobtrusive entrance on stage was not difficult despite cover from the rest of the band. His lion's mane of locks hangs well down his back now, a striking sight by any standards. Facing towards the crowd he was greeted with a rapturous welcome. The set included a very solid collection of Marley favourites. They kicked off with Positive Vibrations, followed by Them Belly Full and a very different, very stunning version of Concrete Jungle. War and No More Trouble were well received but with nothing like the excitement afforded to Is This Love? and Jamming.

Marley's concerts are influenced as much by the charts these days as by rastafarianism. In comparison to the Lyceum concert of '75 with the photographs of Haile Selassie and the Ethiopian flags this was a very commercial affair. But musically there was no room for complaint. A medley finale of Punky Reggae followed, Get Up, Stand Up and Exodus was a dynamic end to a concert that left no soul unsatisfied.

Text copyright Record Mirror 1978, used without permission.

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