LIVE: Steel Pulse present Handsworth Revolution – The Ritz, Manchester

Far Out headed back to the Ritz in Manchester to catch a band who who almost instantly became legends when they unveiled their debut LP.

Steel Pulse released one of the most iconic reggae albums of all time in 1978 when they came up with Handsworth Revolution. The record was a perfect example of how the cultural richness and vibrancy of Britain can shape the lives of millions.

Hailing from Birmingham, the band took roots reggae and and its clarity of social consciousness from Jamaica to the Midlands, all shone through the lens of the West Indian heritage. On paper it might have sounded ambitious, but the results were glorious.

With the album having just been given a deluxe re-release, Steel Pulse announced they would take the album out on the road in its entirety – a show Far Out simply couldn’t miss.

We arrive at the venue to see it is not as packed out as on previous occasions for this one, with the top balcony area having been shut off and left vacant. But it matters not, as down on the floor there is a buzz of anticipation coming from the most vibrant of crowds.

They’re certainly made to wait though. We take it with a pinch of salt when the venue announces the the headliners’ 8.45pm stage time is “subject to change”, but as the clock ticks past 9.30 out patience starts to wane a little.

The same can’t be said for the majority of the crowd, however, who obviously must just be that bit more tolerant than us. Rocksteady classics keep the atmosphere bouncing throughout the prolonged interval and as the band’s hype man comes to whip up a welcome, everyone seems to appreciate that on this occasion punctuality pales in insignificance.

To our absolute delight, from here on in it is a masterclass. In a climate where alternative music sometimes feels like it is populated with bands that have more garage-scuzz than substance, it is inspiring to catch an act who have spent four decades full of social purpose and technical prowess. There’s not a note out of time.

Some of the audience come under the bracket of the retired reggae fan, reliving a youth they made a conscious decision to leave behind. Others are more in the present, enjoying the chance to see such a classic performed in front of their very eyes – perhaps for the first time.

If we’re point-scoring then the loudest cheer – probably inevitably – comes for standout hit and genius protest song ‘Klu Klax Clan’, but the whole set really is a joy from start to finish. There’s nothing more enjoyable than seeing a group of seasoned musicians, perfectly in tune with each others’ expertise, still enjoying themselves after so long.

As the 10.30pm curfew passes, stage managers can be seen rushing back and forth, politely trying to whisper into the ears of David Hinds and co that their time is up. But just as they weren’t too concerned with the scheduled beginning to their set, whatever discount student night that is taking place after the gig is made to wait, as Handsworth Revolution is just too good a piece of work to ever be sidelined. Timeless.

Patrick Davies

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