Steel Pulse are in Brighton to play the whole of their debut 1978 album “Handsworth Revolution”. Like their London contemporaries Aswad, they emerged at a time when Black youth in Britain were questioning their position in society in the face of overt racial hostility, and this album is a dynamic testament to this period that still has relevance today. The fact that Britain experienced riots and discontent in 1981, just three years after this album came out showed the true state of Thatcher’s Britain at that time.
They kick off with the song “Prodigal Son” and this immediately gets the sold out crowd at the Concorde moving. They’ve gone through several line up changes over the years but this current incarnation of the band sound tight and well rehearsed, easily at home whether playing a militant rhythm or a more rootsy groove.
“Klu Klux Klan”, their tale of a racist encounter also retains its impact after 37 years, the band sounding great as a little bit of Rock guitar gives the song a harder edge.
Once they’ve played the entire album, we get a selection of songs from their back catalogue. They play “The Star Spangled Banner” which segues into “Rally Round”, a call to rally around the red, gold, black and green colours of a universal African flag. They also play “Taxi Driver”, the song lead singer David Hinds wrote when he couldn’t get a taxi and subsequently sued a New York taxi cab company for discrimination. In a similar political vein, the song “Drug Squad” deals with the subject of being racially profiled when arriving at airport customs.
These days they’re probably more respected abroad than at home, but this was still a good night of Reggae from bona fide UK veterans of the scene.