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Culture Reviews
Asian Dub Foundation
B2 Club 
By Alex Meredith
“YOU love it. WE love it. I love it” pronounces Steve “Chandrasonic” Savale, Asian Dub Foundation’s (ADF) frontman, midway through his group’s captivating one hour set. The crazed melee of ecstatic revellers before him immediately confirms the first statement is correct. The oomph his fellow band members are putting into the spectacular unfolding around him is enough to validate the second. And wearing a smile as broad as the dhol (traditional Punjabi drum) being mercilessly pounded behind him, there is apparently no need to confirm the truth of the third. In the midst of such euphoria, charging the atmosphere with a narcotic buzz, you could not help but feel you were watching a band at the height of its powers.

Brought together in the mid-nineties under the banner of community activism, it was no real surprise that ADF have responded to the UK’s role in war on terror with a powerful, challenging album. However, few would have predicted that world-changing events would inspire such an all round return to form from the band. The new political bit firmly between their teeth, ADF took the stage at B2 sounding fresh and invigorated and proceeded to hammer out the tracks from their newest album “Tank” with relentless intensity.

The strength, power, and energy of this gig, completely reinforcing the polemic intent of their music, show ADF are workmen enjoying their trade. The MCs bounced, and whirled their way around the stage riding the waves of sound breaking out from behind them. The sound bites come thick and fast, but no apologies are offered for the loaded content of their music, and when it comes in such attractive and varied form, none are asked for. Anthems like “Flyover” and “Tank” are delivered as if they have been chanted by the anti-war lobby since the start. On the evidence of this audience’s reaction there is no reason why they shouldn’t be for years to come. Lest our conscience should take a breather, Ghetto Priest (bizarrely but apparently typically sporting a fighter pilot under-helmet over his waist length dreadlocks) adds another nuance by making reference to the shooting of John-Charles de Menezes, before launching into the orwellian spine-tingler “Round Up”.

Setting aside the quality of their music, having such a large number of energetic and engaging musicians on stage is never an unpleasant experience. That they do not, on appearances alone, seem to have come for the same gig only adds to their charm. Taking up their formation on stage, without their instruments the magnificent seven members took on more an air of an amateur football team than a band.

In such a line up, protecting the imaginary goal stands Prithpal Rajput, an imposing obstacle with his dhol and later tabla drums. Whilst this touch of authenticity looks good, his role is dubious as it is impossible to disguise the fact that the drum line is being provided by the backing track. Nevertheless, he is joined in defence by the headphoned syths maestro Pandit G pouring out his foundation rhythms from the decks at the back. The bedrock of the side, Pandit’s changes of pace throughout the gig from bangra fused jungle on “Take back the Power” to trance for “Hope” allowed the band to launch their musical counter-attacks on your ear from completely unexpected angles. On the wings stand the guitars of Chandrasonic, the energetic and inspirational captain, who’s accusation against Baku of coveting Moscow’s resources before “Oil” was the only blip in an otherwise powerful display, and bassist Dr Das.

However, it is upfront that ADF have the firepower to thrill the fans. A well balanced, potent performance from strike force Ghetto Preist, MC Spex and MC Lord Kimo hit the back of the musical net repeatedly with the band’s rapid-fire, uncompromising lyrics. The vocal agility of the rapping is at times awe-inspiring, and the already delighted crowd responded with more arm-waving enthusiasm. Whilst some bands struggle to find just one decent lyricist, ADF have MC?.

The price tag of RUR1500 a ticket, may have been a refection of the number of ways the appearance fee had to be cut, or may have been premium to hear this challenging group’s take on the world we live in. Whatever the justification, it was worth it. ADF are a band with something to say, and whether you agree with them or not, they said it on stage with such conviction, flair and energy, that this performance will certainly be recorded as a beautifully entertaining away win.

19.09.05
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