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All killer no filler Dreadzone slay Sub89





They came, they saw, they tore the roof off the Reading venue

A bewildering brew of ska, reggae, rock, techno, folk and dub, Dreadzone are such a diverse mishmash of styles they shouldn't make sense at all, let alone work as a band.

But over 90 beautifully breathless sweaty minutes at Sub89 in Reading on Thursday (19), they showed precisely why they do.

Igniting a powder keg inside the modest venue, Iron Shirt, (a song written around a sample from Max Romeo's I Chase The Devil which itself spawned Out of Space by dance pioneers The Prodigy in the early 1990s) grabbed a listless crowd by its haunches and pounded life into it with seven minutes of pure unfiltered joy.

Young and old (and somewhere in-between) pogo'd giddily in unison as Leo Williams' diaphragm-shuddering basslines thudded through crowd favourites Little Britain, Gangster, and Zion Youth.

Over soaking rhythm and beats Chris Compton's astonishing guitar work leapt from funk and soul to punk and blues with impish ease through Love the Life and Elevate, showcasing the kind of originality that is manifestly lacking in British music today.

Underpinning the entire set, the band, the night, was the imperious Greg Dread, Dreadzone founder and drummer, whose thumping beats have fuelled the engine for almost 20 years and yet whose face still wears the mischievous grin of a young boy smashing his first high-hat.

A gig without any lull, however minor, is a rarity, as the words "This one is from our new album" clear dance-floors faster than a spilled pint, but Dread did not let that happen, as what unfurled on stage was as close to a rush of pure adrenaline it is possible to get (legally).

Rarer still is a front-man with such blistering kinetic energy and almost overpowering charisma who “sits” in a four-legged chair at the front of the stage.

Endless touring has taken its toll on MC Spee's knees and back, but the man is simply a marvel, a magnet for eyes as he gyrates and jerks around, unable to sit still.

Gloriously unhinged, the care-free cane-waving vocalist had the crowd eating out of his palm from start to finish as he expelled an inordinate amount of energy through the microphone, all the while perched on his throne.

Occasionally dabbing his face with a towel was the only indication you would get that this man is a mere mortal.

Rasta-souled, Earl Sixteen's dulcet vocals provided the perfect cushion for Chris Oldfield to work the samples and digital effects at the literal other end of the musical spectrum, as the band melded styles unthinkable on one stage.

Giving renewed vigour to even the most jaded gig-goer, those who didn't appear to know any of the lyrics still jumped up and down in unashamed delight as the set built to its conclusion.

Encores should be earned, the band could have vanished and people would still have raved, as it was they re-appeared in a matter of minutes to send the crowd into a final rapture.

Outstanding musicians every one, as a collective Dreadzone has a unique ability to seem ruthlessly professional and at the same time haphazardly experimental, without being anything less than wonderful.

Uplifting in the truest sense, they deserve a much higher status and platform than they currently have.

Stupefying, eclectic, electric, fantastic, do not give up a chance to see this incredible band in action, it will be an experience you will never forget.



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