THE SELECTER + DAKKA SKANKS – ST. PETER’S CHURCH, BRIGHTON 29.7.22
We all made our way out of ‘This Is The Modern World’ exhibition event area (read our review HERE) and headed around the corner to St. Peter’s Church, which is also positioned on the same island between the A23 London Road and A270 Lewes Road.
This imposing church was built from 1824–28 to a design by Sir Charles Barry, it is arguably the finest example of the pre-Victorian Gothic Revival style. It is a Grade II* listed building and it was the parish church of Brighton from 1873 to 2007 and is sometimes unofficially referred to as “Brighton’s cathedral”. This is the first time that all five of the Brighton & Hove News Music Team present this evening have witnessed a concert performance within its monumental walls – the chancel measuring 53 feet (16 m) long and 35 feet (11 m) wide. The interior of the building doesn’t appear as old as one would surmise.
This concert is the first of no less than 17 events that are being put on in connection to the ‘This Is The Modern World’ exhibition. First up tonight in St. Peter’s Church are Brighton five-piece Dakka Skanks, who met at music college and are seriously committed to bringing hard reggae, ska, dub and punk rhythms together in a fresh style. They perform a 12 track 45 minute set, beginning at 8:01pm.
With Andy Murphy stuck in a queue for supposed fast food which resulted in him missing the first half hour or so of the Dakka Skanks set, thankfully the Brighton and Hove News Music Editor, Nick Linazasaro, was only hungry for music and was already in place front right of the stage and able to report on the set.
They are a young band, who are fronted by the enigmatic Clara Wägeli-Byrne, who is now sporting the beginnings of a late 1970s Afro Cut, as opposed to her previously sported ‘skinhead girl’ haircut. The result makes her look even more like Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex fame. Their songs are well crafted with interesting changes of rhythm between ska and dub reggae, and plenty of catchy hooks.
Almost immediately, Clara informs the parishioners that Dakka Skanks will be hosting their ‘Summer Bash’ the following night at Shortt’s Bar in Kemp Town, where one can expect an epic evening of Ska, Dub, Reggae and Punk, featuring Rude Reggae Sounds spinning their Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae and more. Luckily for those that won’t be able to make the event, then there’s a chance to witness the quintet live again in Brighton on Sunday 14th August, when they will be supporting Zounds at The Prince Albert – Tickets HERE.
The church this evening was filling up nicely for their 12-track set and at certain times Clara played a red melodica, which certainly added another interesting element, especially in the dub style breakdown. The boys take care of the occasional backing vocals as well as their instruments (two guitars, bass and drums)
The reggae feel continues though a snappy switch to a ska beat which lifts the chorus nicely. They are a tight unit and the crowd are enjoying what they are hearing, although a large proportion of the sound is being lost to the rafters, but the solid white lighting throughout ensures that everyone can see what the band are up to.
The band members seem very much at ease on stage and look like they’re having a great time. They are confident enough to work the crowd and have landed some impressive support slots so far, including this one, and on the strength of tonight’s performance, it’s easy to imagine them one day becoming a draw in their own right.
They conclude their set with the heavier sounding ‘Mid Life Crisis Punk’ which is an obvious nod or dig to punk. Mid song, it features a really decent drum solo from Henry and their reward is mass applause! Job done! And now the 29-minute wait until The Selecter grace the stage bang on 9.15pm.
Dakka Skanks are:
Clara Wägeli-Byrne (vocals)
Henry Pascoe-Smith (drums)
Tom French (guitar)
Hampus Hultgren (guitar)
Jacob Clark (bass guitar)
Dakka Skanks setlist:
‘Up And Down Alan’
‘Man Next Door’
‘You Can’t Cancel This’
‘Mid Life Crisis Punk’
More info on Dakka Skanks at www.dakkaskanks.com
With the punters warmed up nicely, it was 9.15pm and the turn of The Selecter to take to the stage.
I had the good fortune to speak with Pauline at the ‘This Is The Modern World’ exhibition preview just a couple of hours prior to this launch event and she was made aware that I would be reviewing the concert. She jokingly asked what she would have to do to get a good review?
As always she was most obliging with a photo opportunity for this fan. Somehow the conversation got on to age and without giving too much away she said that even at 58 I would be her toy boy! Well the youthful looking Pauline Black is amazingly 68 years young and is the undoubted Queen of the Ska Revival. Born Belinda Magnus in Romford, luckily for us she ended up in Coventry where The Selecter were formed. They proved to be one of the main players in the ‘2 Tone’ scene synonymous with the city in the late seventies and early eighties, though sadly only lasted a couple of years in their original guise due to the volatile nature of the band.
Today’s more sedate, only in nature, line-up has original band members Pauline leading the line along with MC for the night Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson, on vocals, and together they provide a formidable front line. Keeping the back line tight is drummer Charley ‘H’ Bembridge, the only other surviving member from the 1979 line-up who only recently re-joined the fold a year ago as one-off and enjoyed it so much that he is still there. With a midfield four consisting of Lee Horsley on Viscount keyboards, Neil Pyzer-Skeete on tenor sax, John Robertson on guitar and Andrew Pearson on bass guitar, all working in harmony throughout, they really are one of the tightest knit units you will find around as I have had the pleasure of finding out on three occasions in recent years prior to tonight.
Pauline’s ‘comrade in arms ‘Gaps’ took centre stage for the opener ‘The Avengers’ as we got up and running. It was a brilliant start to the set as we were then treated to three tracks from their debut album with my personal favourite ‘Three Minute Hero’ which is always guaranteed to get the crowd going early on. This was followed by ‘Out On The Streets’ and ‘Everyday’, so already tonight was promising to be another good set and I wasn’t disappointed. They may have calmed down over the years, but the music is still stomping and I defy anyone in the crowd with a sense of rhythm to resist from skanking when they are in full flow.
Not long into their set, Pauline delivered the message that The Selecter’s second album ‘Celebrate The Bullet’ from 1981 is going to be re-released this Autumn, following its controversial release first time round. Radio One DJ Mike Reid, who wasn’t averse to getting records banned back in the day, complained about the title being unaware that it was actually a dig at the NRA given that it was around the time of the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt. A great cheer rang throughout the church at the news forthcoming from the altar.
We had another rare live outing of the bands fifth single ‘The Whisper’, which I have actually had the pleasure of hearing played live once previously. Apparently you can catch them performing this on ‘TOTP2’. As always ‘On My Radio’ went down a storm. It peaked at number 8 in the Top 40 singles charts back in 1979, when record sales were high and it wasn’t so easy to get a number one, so this was a great achievement for a new band.
Pauline was her effervescent self throughout and full of bounce. She was loving the church venue, declaring it was invigorating to the soul and that the music was so loud that God could hear it. There aren’t many lead singers who can smile pretty much through a whole set but as she pointed out she felt she knew the whole crowd personally having had so many selfies taken, so maybe it was familiarity thing.
She revelled in telling us that she was right about the previous incumbent of the prime ministerial role which again received a resounding cheer. She doesn’t shy away from voicing her political views occasionally but like all great performers allows the music to do the talking.
Given the great onstage camaraderie, it is hard to envisage how they were such a volatile band in their younger years, but I suppose we do mellow as we become more mature. Maybe ‘The Sweet Collie’ has helped some along the way and it was pointed out by Pauline that ‘Gaps’ was most familiar with this and linked it into living in the deprived Hillfields district of Coventry, before playing the penultimate song of the evening.
They concluded their set with ‘Madness’ which was one of the songs they would finish the ‘2 Tone Tour’ with and everyone in the crowd would join them onstage. But alas with health and safety those days are long gone, though I for one would happily have joined them onstage to celebrate a great opening night to what promises to be a month long feast of music.
And there we have it, yet another faultless display by The Selecter, as they continue to impress on the live music scene and I look forward to seeing them play live once again in the hopefully not too distant future. It really is no wonder that Pauline Black was awarded a much deserved OBE earlier this year for services to entertainment. Long live the Queen of Ska!
The Selecter are:
Pauline Black (vocals)
Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson (vocals)
Charley ‘H’ Bembridge (drums)
John Robertson (guitar)
Andrew Pearson (bass)
Lee Horsley (Viscount keyboards)
Neil Pyzer-Skeete (tenor sax)
The Selecter setlist reads:
‘The Avengers’ (from the album ‘String Theory’ 2013)
‘Three Minute Hero’ (from the album ‘Too Much Pressure’ 1980/ single reached number 16)
‘Out On The Streets’ (from the album ‘Too Much Pressure’ 1980)
‘Everyday’ (from the album ‘Too Much Pressure’ 1980)
‘Frontline’ (from the album ‘Daylight’ 2017)
‘Breakdown’ (from the album ‘Subculture’ 2015)
‘Celebrate The Bullet’ (from the album ‘Celebrate The Bullet’ 1981)
‘Murder’ (from the album ‘Too Much Pressure’ 1980)
‘Facing Situations’ (from the album ‘Celebrate The Bullet’ 1981)
‘Danger’ (from the album ‘Too Much Pressure’ 1980)
‘Missing Words’ (from the album ‘Too Much Pressure’ 1980/ single reached number 23 in 1980)
‘Black And Blue’ (from the album ‘Too Much Pressure’ 1980)
‘Street Feeling’ (from the album ‘Too Much Pressure’ 1980)
‘Train To Skaville’ (B Side of ‘The Whisper’ 1980)
‘James Bond’ (from the album ‘Too Much Pressure’ 1980)
‘Carry Go Bring Come’ (from the album ‘Too Much Pressure’ 1980)
‘The Whisper’ (single reached number 36 in 1980)
‘On My Radio’ (single reached number 8 in 1979)
‘Too Much Pressure’/’Pressure Drop’ (From the album‘ Too Much Pressure‘ 1980) (The Selecter & Rhoda Dakar)
‘My Sweet Collie’ (from ‘Out On The Streets’ 1992)
‘Madness’ (from ‘Madness’ EP 1994)