erasing clouds

Live Review: 3Men + Black, at The Subclub, Glasgow, Scotland, 12/02/2005

review by anna battista

3Men+Black is a sort of acoustic 2Tone supergroup: it includes The Beat's Dave Wakeling, The Specials' Roddy 'Radiation' Byers, The Selecter's Pauline Black and Bad Manners/The Selecter's Nick Welsh. A long time might have gone since the end of the '70s/beginning of the '80s, when bands such as The Selecter, The Specials and The Beat (better known in the UK as The English Beat) formed and led the 2Tone movement, but for tonight the clocks have stopped at the heyday of 2Tone.

This is the first time the 3Men+Black play Glasgow and, in particular, the legendary Subclub, but the audience, pure ska fans, are ready to welcome them. Dave Wakeling, who explains to the crowd that he's been away from the UK music scene because he's been in America for the last 17 years (the only detail of tonight's gig which is fervently booed by the locals), introduces the first track, The Specials' "Message to You Rudy." It instantly sends the crowd into ecstasy. "Tears of a Clown" follows, presented by Wakeling as a good example of how to destroy a good Motown song. Then it's Pauline Black's turn, with an impeccable rendition of "Three Minute Hero", accompanied by Nick Welsh on bass and backing vocals. To prove that they're not ancient ska dinosaurs, Black launches into a recent and moving song inspired by the case of Stephen Lawrence, a black boy killed more than ten years ago in a racist attack in London, "Ten Years".

The general mood is light at the Subclub, and Wakeling keeps on alternating on the microphone with Black to present the next song. Each song in introduced with a short story connected to it, at least until Roddy 'Radiation' urges, to the cheers of the crowd, to "fuck the introduction" and just play.

More hits are played, among them The Beat's classic 1980 anti-Thatcher hit "Stand Down Margret", "Hands Off... She's Mine", "Can't Get Used to Losing You" and "Mirror in the Bathroom"; The Specials' "Rat Race", "My Girl Lollipop" and "Doesn't Make It Alright"; The Selecter's "Missing Words", "Too Much Pressure" and "On My Radio". Before performing the latter, Black tells the audience a little story from Coventry, where she lives, to prove the obsession surrounding this track. Apparently one day, while she was walking her black-and-white (because she likes to keep everything 2Tone, she underlines) dog in a park, she heard a bird singing the chorus of the song.

All the people in pork pie hats and the random-aged skinheads in the audience maniacally dance on each track that is played. It's hard to say definitely which, among these greatest hits, is the most appreciated by the crowd, since each of them is impeccably delivered. There's also a moving moment during the gig, when the 3Men+Black play an acoustic version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and all the people in the audience join in. Though at the end of the gig there is no encore, which makes the fans a bit sad, this gig is proof that 'dinosaurs' is not the right term to define the 3Men+Black. 'Legends' is much more apt for the members of this special group.

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