Thursday 19th March
Arts Club, Liverpool
Buzzing about inside the red theatre room of The Arts Club in Liverpool are about 150 Selecter fans. They’re wearing their two-tone uniform; red braces, Fred Perry Shirts, DMs, rolled up jeans. Some of them are the same audience as The Selecter’s first gig in 1979, performing On My Radio others are like me – late to the party but just as willing to dance. Everyone scans each other’s outfits, nodding approval, until a group of fans in the corner start to chant the immortal lines from One Step Beyond, and everyone begins to join in.
The room is currently getting lost in the opening band’s, The Tuts, incredible performance. Three London girls, dressed in some of the best damn performance outfits I’ve seen in a while, are energetically stomping around the stage. “If you’ve got a sh*t boyfriend, dump him!” they all scream as they kick into a song about your friends telling you to dump that crap boyfriend. Their energy is infectious and everything they’re doing (from synchronised mini dance routines to flipping their hair every two seconds) is getting the crowd hyped to see their heroes. The Tuts’ Joan Jett and The Blackhearts attitude and their Glastonbury Summer of Love outfits were the perfect way to open up. The Tuts owned that stage – and they looked fierce doing it.
With the crowd buzzed and The Tuts a few album sales richer, it was time for The Selecter. Pauline Black and her gang of ska lads donned the stage and immediately got a hearty Liverpool welcome. The die-hard fans are in the front, limbering up their skanking muscles and everyone else plays the pint-balancing-in-the-mouth-game so that they can clap the band on. They kick into their back catalogue and the crowd jumps into action. Pints are spilled, people push to the front of the stage and everyone’s embarrassing dancing moves come out. It’s carnival. It’s 1979. It’s them as good as they were at the height of their fame.
With songs that touch on political messages that are still relevant now, The Selecter feel like prophets of the people. Remember all that bad stuff that happened in the 80s? It’s all coming back. Let’s dance that out. And the crowd do, they joyfully grab friends and dance like idiots. It’s only Thursday and it feels like a Friday – the working week is officially gone and we have been transported. The audience is in their bedrooms in 1980 hearing the album for the first time, they’re skanking the same way they’ve been skanking for twenty years. It’s that magical, mercurial thing that music does; you’re everywhere at once and everyone is right there with you.
With a night that saw Pauline Black comment on a girl’s staggering bee hive hair in the front row, to the longest (and most welcome) encore I’ve seen in a while, The Selecter are a masterclass in how to have a good time. Download their album, listen to it in the summer with friends and flail your limbs like a twat. As soon as that good-feeling two tone vibe kicks in, it’s all you’ll want to do anyway.
Words by Ruth Hartnoll
Image courtesy of artistagency