Anyone accidentally walking into a Dreadzone gig would think they’d stepped into a time machine and emerged into the Third Summer of Love.
Hands are waved in the air and the audience, which is awash with tie-dye clothing, collectively obey repeated exhortations to ‘bounce!’ It’s a euphoria that underpins the six-piece’s mantra of ‘Life, Love And Unity’, which is also the title of one of their best-known songs from breakthrough album Second Light.
The release, which is regularly described as being one of John Peel’s favourites, was a groundbreaking genre mash of dub, reggae and dance when released in 1997. It’s a fusion that maintains its celebratory energy on key tracks such as ‘Zion Youth’ and ‘Places’, which contrast the sweet dancehall reggae of Earl 16 with MC Spee’s shotgun rapping.
The driving force behind the band’s feel good refrains, the latter is akin to a dub-wise Fagin: waving his cane over the audience’s head as he dances in his seat and mimes to snippets of dialogue from the likes of cult film ‘If…’ Yet despite this central role, he wasn’t a founding member of the band.
Originally put together by ex-Big Audio Dynamite members Greg Roberts on drums and Leo Williams on bass, their evolving membership hasn’t necessarily been reflected in similar fluidity with their song writing.
Tracks taken from their seventh studio album, Escapades, are frequently exercises in nostalgia, with ‘Rise Up’ and ‘Fire In The Dark’ being echoes of a time when they were forerunners of today’s dub and bass driven music. It’s a lack of sonic progression that’s nonetheless usurped by their clear joy of being on stage.
Their contagious ebullience, which results in them having to take a short break when their amps overheat, succeeds in them lifting the audience’s collective spirit and joining it in life, love and unity.
Gig date: November 29