It was almost a year since the mighty Dreadzone last played Exeter Phoenix to another sold out crowd.
What makes this gig even better than last year’s one is the support band Barefoot Bandits – what a treat they were.
Barefoot Bandits are a four piece reggae/dub band from Exmouth, Laurie Ward, Harry Dearsly both on guitar and vocals, Blinksy on bass and Pat Skinner on drums. They attended the same secondary school and five years ago began playing as a band. They perform regularly across South London, twice at Glastonbury, as well as many other festivals throughout the year. Recently announced they will be at this year’s Boomtown and Wonder Field festivals.
Within seconds of them taking to the stage for their 10 song set, people are dancing and a large crowd is forming. Starting with the title track from their ‘Call Me A Liar’ EP this is a catchy tune that soon has the audience singing along. Laurie and Harry take turns on lead vocals, at times harmonising complementing their sound. Harry also raps on some of the tracks.
There is a political content to some songs like ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ where Laurie says, ‘For all those people who think it is fine to hunt a beautiful little creature, run Mr Fox’ with the lyrics ‘Poison has the power to break the law that is enforced.’
A great set which was thoroughly enjoyed by all the audience, Barefoot Bandits are definitely worth seeking out. At the end of the set Chris Compton, the Dreadzone guitarist jumped on the stage to shake hands and congratulate them.
I caught up with band afterwards and they talked about how great it is for them to support Dreadzone again as they grew up as fans listening to their music. This is evident when Dreadzone play and the Barefoot Bandits can be seen dancing and singing along in the audience.
They are four really friendly, genuine guys - I will definitely be keeping an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming gigs. It is always such a bonus when there is fantastic support band. Well done to Beatz and Bobz (the gig promoters) for putting this combo together.
Dreadzone are seen as forerunners of dub and bass with a unique blend of electro and reggae with music from their seven studio albums also incorporating dance, classical, folk and film soundtrack sound bites.
The band originally formed by ex-Big Audio Dynamite members Greg Roberts (Greg Dread), Tim Bran and Leo Williams in 1993. Today Greg is on drums, with Leo on Bass, the melodically mesmerizing Jamaican singer Earl Sixteen, the ever charismatic Mc Spee also on vocals, with Chris Compton on guitar who joined after Greg’s brother Steve Roberts passed away in 2006, and Brazil on technology.
Dreadzone have a loyal following and always sell out when they play the South West. They have played Exeter several times over the years and Spee thanks those who keep coming and making Exeter so memorable for them.
Spee is a true showman and master of the stage and has our attention from his first grin. Still using a walking cane from knee ligament surgery some years previous, Spee sits on a high stall, exuding energy, passion and entertainment. He taps his cane and orchestrates the crowd from his throne to bounce, or wave our arms in the air; clap or sing-along and we all happily obey as his humour and vocals has captivated us all.
It is a 12 song set with 3 extras for the encore, a mix of old and newer materials performed to perfection. We kick off with 1996 ‘Life, Love and Unity’ then straight into ‘Rise Up’ from their more recent album 2013 ‘Escapade’. ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’, ‘Too Late’ and then we are treated to ‘Iron Shirt’ from 2005 ‘Once Upon A Time’, followed by ‘Different Planets’, ‘Digital Masterminds’, ‘Fire in the Dark’, and ‘American Dread’ from 2010 ‘Eye on the Horizon’ amongst others. One of their earliest hits ‘Little Britain’ from the 1995 ‘Second Light’ album brings the show to an end.
The set flies by with everyone dancing and singing along. There is a lady in the front row with a puppet holding a, ‘I Love Dreadzone’ flag, not sure if she follows the band and this is a usual sighting at a Dreadz gig, but Spee picks the puppet up at one point; making quite a surreal moment to the show.
Chris is always bouncing about playing guitar, full of energy. He does seem to always have a cluster of female fans standing on his side of the stage! Leo is so cool he leaves the stage looking as pristine as when he started, with Earl Sixteen barely breaking a sweat. There seemed a little less chat and band interaction than some of their other shows, but nothing to deter from the immensely enthralling gig.
There are cheers and cries for more and I think we all know we are not leaving until we have pogoed and ‘Ahoy-ed’ our hearts out to ‘Captain Dread’ the final encore song. The atmosphere was so infectious it was hard not to get carried away with the best of them as literally the entire audience was leaping about and singing as one. Dreadzone definitely have one of the most energetic, interactive crowds I have seen at the Phoenix – a testament to an excellent gig and their loyal fan base.
Words by Molly Mole
Pictures by Grace Chapman-Duke
For more pictures from the show, please click HERE