Review & Photos: Steel Pulse in Hamburg, Germany @ Fabrik 5/3/2022
05/05/2022 by Gardy Stein
It's been a little over two years since I last reported about a live concert, so I'm probably a little out of practice – bear with me and let's see if the words still flow like they used to!
Hamburg's "Freedom Day" on May 1st allowed people to gather and even dance indoors once more, without masks and vaccination controls. Thus, the vibes were high, and the mighty Fabrik opened its gates to welcome all those who were in dire need of some heavy One Drop music for the first Reggae concert in what feels like ages. Steel Pulse was in the house!
While waiting for the doors to open, we witnessed sweet scenes of reunification in the chilly but sunny May evening. Friends hugged each other, excited to see face to face once more, introducing the recent Hamburg arrivals and exchanging news and stories. Around 8pm, everyone started to move inside, grab a drink and find a place. With a few hundred people in attendance, the location was not filled to the brim, but sported a considerable crowd of all ages, eager for the show to start.
At 8:25pm, the soft sounds of a saxophone warm-up leaked out of the backstage, and shortly after, the current members of the amazing Steel Pulse entered stage and took their positions: Wayne "CSharp" Clarke on drums, Selwyn Brown on keys, David "Cirious" Elecciri Jr. on lead guitar, Amlak Tafari on bass and, to initial whooping and applause, David Hinds with his trademark white-rimmed sunglasses and a matching guitar.
With a full brass section at the ready (Stephen Bradley on trumpet, Shaunte Palmer on trombone and Sheldon Palmer on saxophone), the evening promised to be a musical treat. When Amlak Tafari stepped up to the mic to greet everyone present, however, this expectation was dampened a little. He told us that David would not be able to sing tonight, as his vocal chords were "not ok", as he put it. Instead of staying in the hotel, as the doctor had advised him, Mr. Hinds insisted to at least be on stage and commune with us musically, though. In a clever move, Amlak turned the disappointment that followed his announcement into anticipation with the words "You have the unique chance to sing with Steel Pulse tonight – so be the main act with us! David has given you his voice during the last decades, now it's your turn to give him yours!"
At once, the audience came to Rally Round the red, green and gold flag of keyboarder Selwyn, who powerfully delivered this first track (originally released on the album True Democracy in 1982, as were Chant A Psalm and Blues Dance Raid which were played later in the set). Up next was Soldiers (1978, Handsworth Revolution) and Wild Goose Chase (1984, Earth Crisis), both of which are eerily accurate today with war zones such as Ukraine, Darfur, Yemen, Myanmar and Afghanistan. "Who shall save the human race?"
Next to Selwyn, lead guitarist David Elecciri Jr. took over some of the vocal parts, backed by Stephen Bradley at times. To the tight notes of Drug Squad, Amlak left the stage to dance with the crowd, a move that was greeted with cheers and laughter.
With Don't Shoot, the band presented a first and only track from their new album Mass Manipulation, and its fast-paced beat as well as the engaged lyrics kept the energies high. David's son Baruch Hinds had a short guest appearance before Babylon Makes The Rules lead us into a little Dub-excursion. It was a joy watching the brass section, who obviously enjoyed the show, skanking and laughing and playing their instruments.
The well-known Stepping Out marked the band's leave from stage, but Hamburg was not ready to let them go just yet. With a finely orchestrated sing-along, the encore started full of vibes, and the audience carried this over into the Roller Skates chorus "Life, life without music, I can't go, no!"
It was visibly hard for David Hinds to stay silent and NOT lift up his voice – he was biting his lips all through the show, but contributed with acoustic and electric guitar sound and movement. Just before the final Ku Klux Klan started to play, Amlak swore the listeners to the case: "Hamburg, you are against racism, right?", a question that was viciously affirmed, and the dancing mood spilled over once more.
After the final round of applause, a few musicians stayed on stage to take pictures with the fans, but all too soon this unusual performance was over. Far from being displeased by the circumstances, the people I spoke with after the show were sympathetic to the singer's situation and wished him a speedy recovery. For them, the most important thing was to "be able to experience music live again and feel people's energies all around me", as one visitor put it. It's been far too long that we were confined to our homes – with spring in the air and artists on the move once more, the coming months are full of musical promises!
Thank you, Steel Pulse, for a memorable evening. After all, I guess writing (and playing instruments, for that matter) is like riding a bike: you might be a bit out of practice, but you'll NEVER unlearn it!
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