The Selecter @The Flower Pot, Derby 05:03:15

5 stars (out of 5)


TitleI turned up at The Flower Pot in Derby after a rather fraught drive up from Ipswich and was hardly in a ‘party on’ frame of mind when I got to the venue so this was going to have to be good to keep me away from the early Horlicks. Mr Grumpy had his Not Very Nice Biro with him.

The Flower Pot is one of those venues that looks like it has been frozen in time since the seventies and is none the worse for that in a stick-to-the-floor sort of way. Right in the middle of the city centre, you walk into the venue straight off the street and into a small room with a low ceiling, small stage, inconvenient pillars for sight lines and a bar which along with the usual slew of fizzy cold stuff sells a range of guest real ales. Apart from a couple of sofas(!) and the mixing desk area, that’s your lot. Feet superglued to the floor instantly and away we go. The Tuts had just started their set. Good name, don’t you reckon? Could mean parental expression of displeasure. Could be a dyslexic nod towards The Ruts.

Don’t reckon I’d call the album ‘Oot Fae The Lads’ if I was thinking of distributing it in Scotland though.

A sparky and enthusiastic set played with verve – if no great dexterity – by a trio of two sisters on guitar, bass and vocals and a drummer. Describing themselves as a ‘DIY band’, which I think is what garage bands used to be when people still fiddled around with cars, they got a polite reception sort of crossing Kirsty McColl with shades of The Cranberries and The Toy Dolls……well, if that’s what floats your boat. Lyrically I got hints they were actually quite fun but the appalling sound certainly made it near – on impossible for them to really get through. They were OK though in a sort of enthusiastic support band kind of way.

Enter The Selecter. Fronted by original band members Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson, these guys are the real deal. Remember, they were on 2 Tone Records and toured with The Specials, Madness, The Bodysnatchers et al. And they’ve got a new album to push for 2015, “Subculture”.

Now from the press release I got upfront of the gig I sort of expected having the new material pushed hard at me and a few of the classic oldies fed in there from time to time in a ‘going through the motions’ stylee. Not so. From the off these guys didn’t seem even slightly phased by the ‘bijou’ nature of the venue – which was absolutely rammed – they just went for the jugular with every tune. Tracks from the new album were seamlessly mixed in with classic Ska tunes and Selecter chart-toppers; “Three Minute Hero” got an early blast through while the crowd went bonkers and I absolutely LOVED their superb rendition of the Ethiopians “Last Train To Skaville”. “This Is England” is a truly uplifting celebration of multicultural living and a rejection of narrow-mindedness and it must be a matter of great irony and some sadness to the band that their audience was over 95% white, over 75% male (and of those, over 50% bald but I don’t see what that has to do with anything. And that isn’t a scientific study, BTW.)

What is very much in evidence is how, for this particular band to have the dynamic it has, Gaps is absolutely central to the sound, chipping in the with all the rhythmic Bluebeat and Trojan vocal tricks which punctuate great Ska. But you just can’t take your eyes away from the sassy, quick and witty Ms Black. She looks a million dollars in that razor-sharp suit, the jerky-rapid skatalitic movements of her head punctuating the piledriver ska rhythms.

And this was at times truly great Ska, “Missing Words” sounded as fresh as a daisy and “On My Radio” was played with a supple, lithe energy. A couple of newer tunes as the 90-minute set helter-skeltered to an end and then “Too Much Pressure” and off.

Encore, anyone? Yes please!

Which included a stunner of a “James Bond” with Gaps fronting in his inimitable style, and then for me a bizarre set highlight – Pauline Black singing an wild and whirling version of Doris Day’s, (I kid you not!) “Secret Love”…..!

I never saw The Selecter early doors but I’m pretty damn glad I have now. ‘Best line-up we’ve ever had’ is a line which is trotted out too glibly by some ‘heritage’ bands but I would doubt if anyone has played this stuff with greater expertise, love and conviction.

It was pretty much OK.