The Selecter at 229
“We’re gonna take you back, right back to 1979,” shouts Pauline Black, The Selecter’s animated front woman, and looking out at the sea of pork pie hats bobbing and Dr Martens bouncing, Great Portland Street’s 229 has certainly been transported to the golden age of 70s ska. Despite being a decidedly older crowd (the skin heads now a necessity rather than a fashion choice) this did nothing to quell the immense excitement buzzing throughout the room as people revelled in the opportunity to relive their youth .
“I haven’t danced like this for nearly 20 years”, came the cry from one woman, and as soon as The Selecter entered the stage to a chorus of Jamaican-style drums, shanking piano and raucous saxophones, it was easy to see why she had re-gained her dancing shoes.
Both Black and Arthur “Gaps” Hendrickson are torrents of musical ferocity as they lead the six-piece band with flamboyant panache and cheery playfulness. Their witty song introductions and exuberant dance moves meld with ska’s inherent jocular cheeriness, fully immersing the crowd in a surge of musical abandon.
Hailing from Coventry, The Selecter were pioneers within the British Two Tone Ska movement of the late 70s. Along with other famous names such as The Specials and Madness, The Selecter combined influences from ska, reggae and punk rock creating a revolutionary hybrid genre of Caribbean and Western sounds. Tonight’s concert marks the 35th anniversary of the band’s seminal album Too Much Pressure as well as showcasing their extensive back catalogue of classic and contemporary hits.
The Selecter immediately burst into a cacophony of drums and horns as they begin with their self-titled instrumental track. The band’s energy is unrelenting as each musician jives, handling their instruments with expert ease. Performing album Too Much Pressure in its entirety allowed for a real party atmosphere with hits such as Three Minute Hero, They Make Me Mad, Missing Words, Murder and Black and Blue riling the crowd into a frenzy of boisterous dancing. Street Feeling shows off Black’s sweet, melodious voice with its flecks of Caribbean nuance while Train to Skaville allows Black and Hendrickson’s harmonies to soar, bringing the noise to a frenzied climax with a riveting saxophone solo.
What’s most striking about The Selecter is the agelessness of their sound. Their music as well as the messages they convey about race and modern society are timeless. Both their performance and sound are truly a phenomenon and will continue to inspire for years to come.
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information and future events visit The Selecter’s website here.
Watch the video for Missing Words here: