First, a tip. If you’re ever planning to be a victim of a miscarriage of justice make sure you’ve got the right name first.
Like Satpal Ram, [a]Asian Dub Foundation[/a]’s cause cilhbre, behind bars for defending himself against racist attackers. Almost every student in Britain must know his name by now. Why? Because of the outrageous injustice of his plight? Or because his name scans perfectly across the spat-out rebel chorus to ‘Free Satpal Ram‘, ramming it deep into their consciousness? Could be.
But ADF would be demanding Ram’s release even if he had a snaking tongue-twister of a name. They’re that kind of band. They mean it, man. Without the sarcastic Johnny Rotten sneer, that is. That, ultimately, is why they appear to be on a collision course with the nation’s tastemakers. Because they’re far less concerned with style than content. They’d rather be the 200-gigs-a-year Clash for the jungle generation than a millennial Sex Pistols.
Not that their audience – tonight almost exclusively white students – seems to have the slightest problem with the air of Mark Thomas worthiness that hovers over songs like ‘Will The Real Great Britain Please Step Forward‘. The fact ADF have persuaded 450-odd of them to brave the proverbial rainy Wednesday night in Sheffield is not to be sniffed at either.
It’s more to do with their ability to deliver in good, old-fashioned rock terms than any political agenda. They execute stalwarts like ‘Naxalite‘ and ‘Black/White‘ with a ruthless efficiency. The clutch of new tracks they air, especially the Primals-do-‘Rockafeller Skank‘ of ‘New Way/New Life‘, betray a new chartwise savvy which should catapult them from cult success into the big pop pond.
And, most importantly of all, in Master D they have a lead singer brimming with the cool and charisma that is such rare currency in these days of Stereophonics pub rock. He hardly says a word tonight, choosing instead to shadowbox his way around the stage like a mini-Mike Tyson, raging away to himself but remaining a potent focus among the goofy, crowd-stoking antics of the rest of the band.
The backlash, we can surmise, is beckoning. It’s inevitable for any band which sticks so rigidly to its guns – especially when those guns defy all common pop sense about political bands being intensely dull.
But this much is clear. If Asian Dub Foundation continue to rock the boat in the spectacular style they do tonight, they’ll hardly even notice it.