Ruts DC @ Jazz Cafe, London, 13/10/15

by AdamTait
AdamTait
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on 19 October 2015 in Live
Rating 8/10

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how important punk and reggae were to each other. Granted, the dawn of the ska punk movement did its best to make the most of the connection, but ultimately failed to do it credit. The two were integral to each others development in the British music scene on the 1970s. Perhaps most famously evidenced by The Clash.

But there’s not a huge number of chances to see that wonderful musical collision in action any more. Ruts DC might just be the last.

The tragedy of the original frontman Malcolm Owen’s death in 1980 would be enough to stop most bands in their tracks. But The Ruts lived on, reinventing themselves as Ruts D.C, and more than three decades later are still impressively plying their trade.

“I never thought I’d walk down those stairs,” bassist Segs confesses after arriving at the Jazz Cafe stage. Throughout the evening his interactions with the crowd are peppered with memories of visiting the venue as a punter - to see a drunken Sly and Robbie, to be blown away by The Skatalites. The humility of the band, who seem genuinely impressed to find themselves treading such hallowed boards, is shocking considering this is a band who once backed the inimitable Laurel Aitken.

But it’s part of their charm. Despite nearly 40 years as a band, they remain as excited to be there as ever.

Opening with ‘Surprise’ (“starting off slowish”), it takes a while for the assembled audiences to be drawn into the performance. Switching the vibe following up with ‘Mighty Soldier’ from 2013’s Rhythm Collision Vol. 2, the juices begin to flow but still the crowd seem unconvinced. But Ruts DC are old hands at this. Plowing into vitriolic renditions of ‘Backbiter’ and ‘No Time To Kill’, the audience is steadily lured into action.

There’s no lack of evidence of the band’s astute observation of the world around them. ‘Dangerous Mind’ is directed at the late Lady Thatcher, with a sidenote concerning the hopes laid at the feet of Jeremy Corbyn. ‘Second Hand Child’ is introduced with reference to the ongoing battle against abuse of all kinds.

The set’s final third is when things really feel like they’ve got some heat behind them, though. And it’s still the band’s early songs, the ones that made them a snarling manifestation of social thought in the 70s and 80s, that engage the crowd most.

Brixton MC Superfour joins the band for an electrified performance of ‘Jah War’. The crowd eagerly sucks up ‘Babylon’s Burning’, the opening track of their seminal debut The Crack. And by the time ‘Staring At The Rudeboys’ makes an appearance the audience is a writhing , swelling mass of activity.

Very much to their credit, Ruts DC continue to push on with their music, not resting on the laurels of a much loved back catalogue and a dedicated retinue of fans. But nonetheless there's something vitally exciting about seeing the convergence of punk and reggae in blistering action.

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