Koko. Friday night. I’m here to see one of my all time favourite bands.
But, before the iconic Pauline Black and co. take to the vast stage at the almost as iconic Camden venue, The Tuts treat us to a wonderfully energy-filled set. I only manage to catch their last couple of tunes, but what I do hear leaves me wanting more. Clad in matching sparkly dresses, the vivacious trio ooze youthful buoyancy and plenty of pizzazz as they blast out their fantastic punk-rock sound.
As The Selecter make their unmistakable entrance to the sound of The Avengers theme, I am once again filled with that overwhelming sense of ecstasy that only comes from being in the presence of my most favourite of artists. As Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson lead proceedings, each suited and booted member of the band bring with them their own unique character and energy, instantly confirming that the 2 Tone legends will not disappoint.
As energy-fuelled classics such as ‘Three Minute Hero’ and ‘Fuck Art, Let’s Dance’ flow and Black’s unique charisma and magnetism ooze from the stage, the whole venue becomes alive with a mass of bouncing, skanking fans of all ages, and an aura of unified joy fills the air.
Aside from their incredible arson of fantastically uplifting songs, incredibly vibrant stage presence and trademark sense of cool, what makes The Selecter even more wonderful is the message they convey. Pioneers of the 2 Tone movement, whether singing about music, social injustices or cultural history, their ethos remains explicitly consistent: perfectly summed up in a fervent statement from Black as an introduction to that poignant anthem, ‘My England’ – “I love England, but I love multiculturalism more! So, you all know what you have to do in May!”
It’s not just the magnificent front-woman, however, who makes the set what it is: the band as a whole appear to be utterly immersed in the music, emanating masses of positive vibes and contagious, skanktastic energy. As Gaps Hendrickson exudes coolness and enthused eccentricity in equal measure, the rest of the diverse and talented band energetically groove along as they play, perfectly in time to the upbeat Ska rhythms. And, as Hendrickson and Black cross paths as they buoyantly skank across the stage, I become certain that seeing The Selecter live really is the best possible cure for a tough week – they’re a joy to behold and I can’t think of a better way to put a smile on one’s face (and get some exercise).
Timeless classics such as ‘Missing Words’ and ‘On My Radio’ are juxtaposed with impressive new creations from the upcoming Subculture album, including a fantastic rendition of Patti Smith’s ‘Because The Night’, and – as each note flows from the stage – so does a bit more of that spirited sense of positivity.
Hitting the crowd with as much gusto and incredible energy as ever before, The Selecter set KOKO shaking with the vibrations of a mass of awe-inspired fans. And, as each and every one of us join in with the ‘Las‘ and actions to ‘Carry Go Bring Home’, I’m certain that live sets don’t get any more uplifting than this.
Voicing the need for equality of all kinds through the perfect medium of these anthemic tracks, The Selecter certainly prove – 35 years after the release of their debut – that they’re able to exude as much social relevance, vibrancy and empowering spirit as ever before.
Finishing the set by inviting The Tuts on stage with them, Pauline Black and co. show they’re still capable putting on the best shows around, and I can’t wait to hear what they’ve got in store for us next. I only wish I could get on the ‘Train to Skaville’ every day…
‘Subculture’ is out 15th June.