Since their formation in 1996, when a Welshman and a Scotsman met at a squat rave in Brixton, Alabama 3 have been a source of delight and controversy within the musicworld. Neither from Alabama or formed of three members, their eclectic combination of country, blues, and acid house is both infectious and distinctive. Whilst their most famous song ‘Woke Up This Morning’ was used as title music for hit series ‘The Sopranos’, the band’s hard-living lifestyle would put even ‘Tony’ to shame. From provocative and politically-motivated lyrics, to numerous line-up changes, to stints in rehab, they’ve built a solid fan base and cemented a rock ‘n’ roll reputation.
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Tucked away in the outskirts of the city, Cardiff’s Tramshed is one of the few remaining medium-sized venues in the city. Amongst the closure of many independent music venues in Cardiff, it is fantastic to see that this musical hub is still standing strong. Almost at capacity, virtually every age group was represented, the resonating message being that good music has no age limit, and is universal.
The audience bristling with anticipation, the near sold-out nature of the show created an environment of tense excitement. Bursting onto the stage with a high-octane version of fan favourite ‘Power in the Blood’, Larry Love’s raw energy and unadulterated zest for life was immediately apparent. Deep, rolling drum beats, subtle synths, and Harpo Strangelove’s harmonica melded together perfectly, conjuring an atmosphere that could only be likened to tripping at a barn dance, in the best possible way. An array of hits followed, from the funk-infused ‘(I’ll Never be) Satisfied’ to the heavier anthem ‘Rattlesnake Woman’.
Dancing and singing through every song, the audience was entranced by the pure passion for music exuded by the band. Around halfway through the ninety-minute set, ‘Woke Up This Morning’ made its inevitable appearance, sending the crowd into a frenzy. The extended version of the song perfectly brought a new level of energy to the room. A stunningly soulful rendition of ‘Too Sick to Pray’ brought the main set to a triumphant climax.
After leaving the stage for a teasingly excessive length of time, The Spirit emerged from the darkness, ready to begin an encore set. As he tentatively began to play the distinctive piano riff of ‘U Don’t Danse to Tekno Anymore’, the joy of the crowd was overwhelming. Swaying and chanting every lyric, humming every chord, the audience almost drowned out the acoustic rendition of the song. Following a quick yet heartfelt rendition of ‘Peace in the Valley’, and thanking of both the band members and the crowd, ‘Hello… I’m Johnny Cash’ brought the night to a glorious conclusion.
Twenty years on from the release of their first album, Alabama 3 reemphasised that not only are they a superb live band, but that they love every minute of it.