erasing clouds

Live Review: The Selecter Acoustic, The Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Scotland, 03/04/2004

by anna battista

A long time has gone since 1979, when the band The Selecter formed and when, together with The Specials, they became two of the main bands leading the Two Tone movement. Twenty-five years might have passed but Pauline Black, the voice of The Selecter, is still in an amazing form as this acoustic set showed us. The Selecter Acoustic started in 1998, with Pauline on vocals and guitar and The Selecter bassist and Grammy-Award winner (for Lee "Scratch" Perry's album Jamaican ET) Nick Welsh on guitar, bass and backing vocals. Usually their gigs are a mish-mash of new and old hits, plus a few covers, all introduced by Pauline with some stories about the song they are going to play or about some great moments of ska.

Tonight Pauline brings back the old times by starting the set with an impeccable rendition of "Three Minute Hero", followed by a cover of Desmond Dekker's hit "Israelites". Pauline, who's sporting for the occasion her trademark trilby hat, then launches into the moving "Ten Years", a song about the case of Stephen Lawrence, a black boy killed more than ten years ago in a racist attack in London, and "Requiem for a Black Soul", which is also the title of the new Selecter Acoustic album, a song dedicated to Nina Simone, of whom Pauline will also sing tonight "To Be Young, Gifted and Black". The audience is ecstatic (especially the group of aged skinheads at the back; by the way, why did skinheads love ska? Who knows, that's one of the great mysteries of life…), especially when Pauline and Nick, who's simply flawless in playing his guitar, play The Selecter's hits "On My Radio", "Missing Words" and "Too Much Pressure", the latter dedicated to the mad genius Lee "Scratch" Perry. Pauline then introduces a new song by The Selecter Acoustic, "Gone Gone Gone", with the story of Judge Dread's death. The tale is hilarious since "the Chaucer of Ska", as Dread was nicknamed for his overtly sexual lyrics, had a heart attack on the stage in Canterbury, while he was singing clad in a Superman suit and amusing his audience with a rubber chicken and other incredible accessories. The covers of The Specials' "Message To You Rudy" and "Racist Friend" follow, sadly they are two of the last songs of the night and perhaps two of the most appreciated tracks. Indeed when Pauline and Nick play them, many people in the audience start maniacally dancing around.

With this gig, Pauline, who after a career in The Selecter became an actress and writer, reconfirms she's one of the female icons of ska music, probably the most charismatic, together with The Bodysnatchers and Special AKA's Roda Dakar and Bellestars and Big 5's Jennie Bellestar. What will we say then about tonight? Well, that it simply was a quintessential Selecter night.

Issue 22, April 2004

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