Dreadzone have been a staple on the festival circuit for a long time now; 21 years, in fact, as we are frequently reminded tonight throughout the performance. Over the course of those years they had a particularly legendary Glastonbury show, got significant airplay from John Peel (adding another notch to his bed post of discovery) and through consistently touring and making new music, have never stopped mastering their art of taking total and utter control of an audience.
Since being formed all those years ago by Greg ‘Dread’ Roberts, Tim Bran and Leo Williams they have masterfully crafted their own instantly recognisable sound, despite a few line up changes along the way. It’s an utterly unique blend of dub, reggae, folk, techno, house and anything else they can find a sample of that will work. Ultimately, if it makes you feel happy and want to dance, they’ve succeeded.
Tonight’s leg of the tour comes in support of Dreadzone’s 7th studio album, Escapades, and sees a room filled with a truly dedicated fan base, many of whom have clearly been on their journey since the very start. Two minutes into the first song MC Spee asks if his bouncing crew are in tonight, the energy from that point on just continues to rise in the room. If they’d been bouncing any harder Concorde 2 would’ve needed a new ceiling.
MC Spee knows how to command a crowd effortlessly, sitting on his bar stool and using his cane as more of a conductor’s baton than the stylish walking aid it really is. I once saw him perform in crutches a few years back, a testament to a man who is truly dedicated to the cause. Before the band break into ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ he says “This one’s for everyone that doesn’t have to go to work tomorrow, or even more for the ones that are pulling a sicky!” Judging from the cheer of the crowd, I was the only person in the room that had to go to work.
The three new songs that they played; ‘Rise Up’, ‘I Love You Goodbye’ and ‘Fire In The Dark’ were all met with a great reception, but it’s when the band break into ‘Life Love and Unity’ from their, arguably, most famous album, ‘Second Light’, just over half way through the set that the crowd get the first real taste of what they’ve been waiting for.
‘Little Britain’ the single that got them their highest ever chart ranking in 1996, is played as the band’s ‘last’ song and there can’t have been a still body in the house. When they close the room to ‘Captain Dread’ for the final song of the encore the chants of ‘Ahoy!’ can still be heard on the seafront against the crashes of the waves as the euphoric feeling fans can’t bring themselves to stop singing on their walks home.
MC Spee says at one point “We’ll stop playing these shows when you lot stop coming to them.” If tonight is anything to go by, they’ll be playing many more yet.
Words and images by Tom Ricards