The audience for the Alabama 3 are, if nothing else, diverse. Yet that is what would one expect from a group that 'The Guardian' claim are “the best live band around today”, and the 'NME' maintain are “a monumental waste of time” (both reviews are cheerfully displayed on the Alabama 3's website, which shows their opinion of the latter's credentials).
The venue tonight is Rock City in Nottingham, a superb location for live shows, due to the presence of a raised platform at the rear of the venue, to ensure that those at the back do not miss the show. I was fortunate enough to find myself at the front left of the audience, and spent my time chatting to other fans whilst waiting for the band to come on stage. Like me, the vast majority had first heard of the Alabama 3 around about the time of their 1997 debut album 'Exile on Cold Harbour Lane', and had been ardent followers since.
Although Krakatoa had apparently been billed as the supporting act for the night, we were instead serenaded by a impromptu DJ Set by the MOUNTAIN OF LOVE, after Krakatoa had apparently been delayed by roads flooding from the torrential downpour that night. Despite a small, yet obvious fluff (where he was gamely heckled), his was flawless, and shows much of the band's magnanimity by offering their own services as a warm-up act.
Finally, the Alabama 3 emerged on stage to rapturous applause, evidence of the crowds' anticipation. With Larry Love opening with their new track 'Jacqueline', D. Wayne Love was to later join the band on stage three songs in, for 'Hypo Full of Love'.
It is an amazing sight to witness a room full of people with their fists raised in the communist salute, which is just what the Alabama 3 encouraged for 'Mao Tse Tsung Said', and as D. Wayne Love commented, “just goes to show what happens when the right thing is said by the wrong person”. This last comment exemplifies the Alabama 3's interaction with the audience, be it Larry Love's demand of “Bring our troops back from Afghanistan, and not in body bags”, to D. Wayne Love's mocking of the Reverend Ian Paisley on how they were going to rename their song 'Power in the Blood' to 'Orange is Not the Only Fruit' after him.
Unlike their previous tour which was to promote their 2007 'M.O.R.' album, this tour showcased music from the entire breadth of their career. Thus many of the classic Alabama 3 tunes had an appreciative response from a crowd who had not heard them for a while.
Krakatoa, the aforementioned support band, eventually made an appearance between the conclusion of the Alabama 3's set and their subsequent encore, to play an acoustic track with Larry Love (who gamely joined in for the chorus to demonstrate his support for them). The track was suitably political, with an engaging chorus. Their lead singer seemed a cross between Damon Albarn from Blur and John Lydon from the Sex Pistols.
The Alabama 3 were on superb form, Larry Love was at his showmanship best, D. Wayne Love was at his biting best, Rock Free Base was on form with lead guitar, and the Spirit of Love performed a flawless set on keyboards. Meanwhile Aurora Dawn (their female vocalist whilst Devlin Love is taking time out to have her baby) fitted in surprisingly well with such an established group as the Alabama 3.
Despite my enjoyment, I detected a sense that they were merely going through the motions. This could have been from their disappointment with having to delay the tour for their forthcoming 'Revolver Soul' album, and was probably undetectable by people less au fait with the anarchic energy of the Alabama 3, but it added an after-taste of disappointment when viewed in hindsight.
With the exception of minor technical glitches from the sound, and a flat undertone to the night, the Alabama 3 nonetheless played a superb set. A set that proved even when the Alabama 3 do not play at their best, they are still more than worthy of being called “the best live band around today”.