Poster for Dreadzone 30 years of dread tour

The Marrs Bar, Worcester
Friday 1st Dec 2023

The Marrs Bar was sold out, and it’s not surprising – who wouldn’t want to grab a ticket to the former Glastonbury Pyramid stage opening Dub-meisters performing on their 30 Years of Dread tour? My first introduction to Dreadzone was the genre-melding powerhouse that is Second Light in 1995. I’ve gotta be honest though, in the almost 30 years since then , I had never seen Dreadzone live, and having seen another well-known band which also merges samples with its live sound last year, I admit I was a bit sceptical about what the sound quality and feel would be like. I mean, how could they possibly do justice to the masterfully self-produced Second Light?

With no support act as such, Greg Dread soon came on playing a Dj set of some heavy dub and got the burgeoning crowd swaying and moving- it was immediately clear that the quality sound system could handle the deepest base with ease, and as it moved through me I immediately began to relax.

Photo of Dreadzone at The Marrs Bar
Dreadzone at The Marrs Bar

As more people moved from the bar towards the stage and the air got heavy with expectation, Dreadzone took to the stage, opening with House of Dread, with Greg on drums and Leo Williams on bass laying down a super tight and playful rhythmic core, then moving into Life Love and Unity with Earl 16 bathed in warm light and the crowd already fully engaged in moving. It was clear that their sound was astonishingly well mixed and seamlessly blended samples with live instruments and vocals. Rootsman was next, then Rise Up, which was followed by a pounding, rousing Fight the Power – relentlessly raising the energy and intensity in the crowd, with Greg’s son Blake effortlessly delivering the edgy guitar. I briefly considered political activism, or at least confronting some cunts in authority, but then lost track of time and was seduced into moving to the hypnotic vibes of Tomorrow Never Comes and a clutch of other tracks including Walk Tall, Battle, and Iron Shirt, in between refreshment breaks. By this stage, of course, the whole place was heaving with positive energy and good vibes. The band are just so into it – and so are the crowd, and then it just gets better with three final tracks from Second Light – the opening chords of the classic Zion Youth raise a cheer before its masterfully effortless delivery, then the ever-uplifting Little Britian sets everyone off again, arms in the air. Last out is Captain Dread with its Celtic pirate edge and upbeat melodies entrancing the crowd one last time.

I blew out the last train home – but hey it’s only bitterly cold out there. I’m reminded of the great punk gigs at the Malvern Winter Gardens of the 1970s and early 80’s and, you know, Worcester is lucky – lucky to have this venue with such a great sound and lighting set-up – attracting world class musicians – hosting Dreadzone, who through line-up changes, and changes of direction, still deliver an epic live set 30 years on, fresh as a daisy. Ahoy!

By: Ronoc Htoob

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