GENTLEMAN’S DUB CLUB – ST PETER’S CHURCH, BRIGHTON 4.8.22
‘This Is The Modern World’ is a month-long exhibition showcasing memorabilia from The Jam, Paul Weller and The Style Council. Held in a pop-up location at Valley Gardens in the modernist spiritual home of Brighton, there is also an extensive programme of evening entertainment in the adjacent St Peter’s Church, brought to us by AGMP Concerts. Tonight’s show, on a warm summer’s Thursday evening, features dub and reggae collective Gentleman’s Dub Club.
Formed in Leeds in 2006, and these days based in London, Gentleman’s Dub Club have established themselves as crowd-pleasing festival favourites, often playing massive shows, especially in Europe. Their electronic-heavy take on sound system culture has produced five full length albums, from 2013’s ‘FOURty FOUR’, named after the number of the house in Leeds they originally rehearsed in, to ‘Down To Earth’, released in 2021. The Brighton and Hove News Team has experienced the band’s scorching live show on their previous visits to our city, most recently at Chalk in March this year – Read our review HERE.
St Peter’s Church is certainly a magnificent venue, with a cathedral-height vaulted ceiling. It has been undergoing major refurbishment and maintenance works for some years now, and inside, the huge Portland stone pillars are looking very clean. There is still some internal scaffolding in place, though the focus now seems to be outside. Doubtless the fees for hosting this season of secular entertainments are contributing towards the considerable costs of such work.
Tonight here’s a temporary bar set up in front of the altar, and the stage is at the other end of the nave, adorned with the band’s backlit logo. A sizeable PA is pumping out a selection of reggae-tinged tunes. The sound is great close to the stage, though further away there’s plenty of scope for crazy reverberations around the vast ceiling space. The sound tech charged with keeping it all under control is called Dom, working a digital desk in an island of tubular barriers, further up the nave. There’s no support act tonight, so my fellow patrons have unstacked some of the church chairs and settled down to listen to to the sound system. A few optimistic types have placed chairs right in front of the stage, though I doubt they’ll be there for long once the band starts playing. It’s about an hour and a half’s wait from doors opening, which passes pleasantly enough, as the space steadily fills up.
There’s a huge buzz of excitement as Gentleman’s Dub Club file onto the stage in their characteristic garb of white shirts and various coloured ties. Some of the band members also sport baseball caps. An introduction piece builds as the various players take their places, starting with washes of swooshing synth and a monstrously deep and ludicrously catchy keyboard bass line. Thudding kick drum and busy percussion join the party, then a horn section of trumpet and sax, and those classic reggae guitar stabs on the offbeat. The horns neatly segue into the main riff of ‘Down To Earth’, and charismatic frontman Jonathan Scratchley bounds onto stage to a loud cheer. He wears a grey business-type suit, with his hair casually tied back in the disputed territory between a top knot and a pony tail. Barefoot, he is absolutely fizzing with energy and bouncing like he’s made out of rubber, and we’re straight down to business with some high-speed rapping (or ‘toasting’, if you’re my age). The sound is massive, the rhythm is irresistibly danceable, and it’s impossible not to be drawn in by the band’s infectious enthusiasm. The crowd around me are pretty excited already, but Jonathan seems keen to work them into a frenzy.
“If you love music, if you really love music, raise your hands to the sky!” Needless to say, the room is a sea of waving hands. We’re straight into the pop reggae of ‘Music Is The Girl I Love’, whose delicious vocal hook prompts a mass singalong.
There’s a lot happening, with Jonathan bounding around like a jumping jack, with a beaming smile. Trumpet player Matt stalks the stage in-between horn stabs, doing his bit to add to the vibes, a sly grin suggesting he’s up for a bit of mischief. The drums are house left, with Tommy beautifully fluid around the kit, putting in plenty of fills and accents. Next to him, playing a Strat, is guitarist Nick, and along the back of the stage, behind an array of Nord keyboards, are Toby and Luke. Toby supplies the basslines, alternating between keys and a Steinberger-style headless 5-string. Moustachioed Luke has a Nord Electro stacked above a Stage 2, to deliver rhythmic piano and vibey electronic sounds. Completing the lineup are two players who are less familiar to me, deputising for this evening’s show. On sax, Josh looks very much the part with a bushy beard and baseball cap, whilst standing in behind a percussion set of congas and bongos, Prav (the band’s manager) looks like he’s having an absolute blast.
“This is totally mental,” says Jonathan, taking in the surreal surroundings. “We’ve never played in a venue like this.” The band launches into the lolloping lilt of ‘Castle In The Sky’, another number from the most recent album. It transitions nicely into the sunny stylings of ‘Dancing In The Breeze’.
“Brighton, are you ready to bounce?” the singer enquires, as the number moves up a gear into a blistering guitar solo. We certainly are, and I’m getting a good bit of height with the assistance of the crash barrier.
Early single ‘Emergency’ has a busy rapped vocal, and a call-and-response hook that gets a particularly enthusiastic take up from the audience. Jonathan asks for the lighting, which is a bit ‘Songs of Praise’, to be dimmed slightly for the vibey dub of ‘Earthquake’, which is atmospherically drenched in vocal echo and ushered along by offbeat piano. ‘Let A Little Love’ is supremely catchy pop reggae, and that mood continues with the lovers rock feel of ‘Midnight Healing’.
The hard working frontman gets to take a short break as the band slides slickly into the dubby build of ‘Gridlock’. The number is soon soaring, the crowd bah-bah-ing along to the tripping horn hook. Nick is covering some serious fretboard, the electronics swirl and swoop, and the big snare hits have enough reverb and delay to sound like they’re being played in a grain silo. The crowd are absolutely loving it, and the excitement builds yet further as the familiar opening riff of early single ‘High Grade’ strikes up. Everyone is singing the refrain before Jonathan is even back on stage.
“Truth be told, I’m a sucker for the high grade. When I’m grey and old, will I still be getting involved?” Personally, I’m all of those things, and very pleased to still be. This number is an absolute winner, and we’re treated to an extended version, complete with a dub breakdown in the middle. There’s plenty of time for Jonathan to nip backstage again, and the agitatedly animated trumpet player Matt has magicked up a bottle of fizz and a stack of paper cups to dispense libation to his bandmates. Somehow we’ve travelled through various movements and ended up with a seriously manic jungle beat, which transitions into ‘Sugar Rush’.
“Who’s got the energy out there, right now?” It seems there’s a bit more left in the tank, as the same skittering rhythm provides the impetus for a seriously lively romp through a jungle version of ‘Fire’, which makes for an exciting crescendo to conclude the main set. The players leave the stage to rousing cheers, whilst Jonathan stays to chat.
Would we like an encore? Of course we would, and it’s ‘Gentleman’s Sleng’, from the band’s 2009 debut EP ‘Members Only’, a nicely lilting old-school rhythm with a massive horn hook. Jonathan is working the crowd like we’re at a festival. The get-down-and-jump-back-up move seems de rigueur at that sort of occasion, and now we’re going to do it in church too. The entire audience seems happy to comply, and it makes a splendid climax to a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment.
It would be hard not to enjoy a set by Gentleman’s Dub Club, whose enthusiasm, musicianship, and superlative stagecraft make it clear why they are such a popular act. They have proved a worthy addition to this fine programme of events to accompany the exhibition.
Gentleman’s Dub Club, for tonight’s show:
Jonathan Scratchley – vocals
Matt Roberts – trumpet
Nick Tyson – guitar
Toby Davies – bass, keyboards, vocals
Luke Allwood – keyboards, vocals
Tommy Evans – drums
Pravin Mukhi – percussion
Josh Arcoleo – sax
Gentleman’s Dub Club setlist:
‘Down To Earth’ (from ‘Down To Earth’ 2021)
‘Music Is The Girl I Love’ (from ‘The Big Smoke’ 2015)
‘Castle In The Sky’ (from ‘Down To Earth’ 2021)
‘Dancing In The Breeze’ (from ‘Dubtopia’ 2017)
‘Emergency’ (single 2010)
‘Earthquake’ (from ‘The Big Smoke’ 2015)
‘Let A Little Love’ (from ‘Dubtopia’ 2017)
‘Midnight Healing’ (from ‘Lost In Space’ 2019)
‘Gridlock’ (from ‘Dubtopia’ 2017)
‘High Grade’ (single 2012)
‘Sugar Rush’ (from ‘Down To Earth’ 2021)
‘Fire’ (from ‘Members Only’ EP 2009)
‘Gentleman’s Sleng’ (from ‘Members Only’ EP 2009)
The ‘This Is The Modern World’ exhibition continues until 3rd September 2022. Tickets, and details of the accompanying events, can be found at: www.thisisthemodernworld.net
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