The Selecter

By Paul Ballard

Artist:  The Selecter

Date / Artist:  Saturday October 11th, The Studio, Auckland

Coventry's finest, The Selecter, have finally made it to our shores to mark the 35th Anniversary of their seminal debut album Too Much Pressure. Being one of the more successful bands to rise from the 2 Tone camp, The Selecter, formed by Neol Davies and fronted by the infallible Pauline Black was an integral part of the British ska revival movement of the late 1970s. With brothers-in-arms The Specials and The Beathaving already played here numerous times, it has definitely been a long time in the making.

Reforming in 2010 to celebrate their 30th Anniversary, the current 6-piece band fronted by Pauline Black alongside original band member Arthur 'Gaps' Hendrickson has certainly been making waves globally, with extensive tours across the UK, Europe and even Australia. Having already played Christchurch andWellington this week, this final night at The Studio was already shaping up to be a goodie.

So once more we step out with the Fred Perry and Harrington-donned rude boys and girls of Auckland. Coincidentally the last time I was here was to review the lacklustre English Beat back in May, but tonight already had a whole different vibe. The atmosphere was electric, spurred on further by the fact that Pauline and Gaps had come round to greet the evening's revellers at the merchandise table. The Selecter have always been a band for the people, and tonight was no exception as they happily posed for photos, signed CDs and mingled with their public. It was refreshing to see and the infectious smiles set the tone beautifully for the evening.

As the foyer buzzed, those who had made their way to the filling dancefloor were not left wanting, as perfectly-pitched local support Roofdog kicked into gear with their unique brand of guitar-driven goodness.Timmy Blues was a standout, with its sultry swinging midrift sandwiched tightly between two slabs of rudeboy action. These guys were the perfect accompaniment, the gauntlet had been thrown and the pace for the evening had been set.

We hardly had time to wipe the sweat from our brows before The Selecter stepped onto the stage, and they certainly looked the part. Clean-cut and ready for business in their sharp attire, with Pauline herself looking timeless in a beautifully tailored black suit and fedora.

"Good evening Auckland", Gaps announced with dub-echo already in full flight mode; "Welcome to our kitchen!", before introducing members of the rhythm section one by one a-la Soul Stew. Before we knew it we were already waist-deep in an uptempo version of their classic instrumental Selecter; guitarist Anthony Harty replicating Neol Davies' original riffs with absolute perfection. No time to catch our breath as mosh-anthem Three Minute Hero followed in quick succession, whipping the already heaving dancefloor into a frenzy. We had found our voice.

Over the next 90 minutes we were treated to a true Selecter showcase. All the classics from their debut album were in session, and to put it plainly they were on-point. The instrumental skank of James Bond and the melodic Missing Words definitely hit the spot; there was also a somewhat timely waft of green for My Collie (Not a Dog) and of course the magnificent On My Radio brought the house down.

Also in the mix were live renditions from their 1980 follow-up Celebrate The Bullet album, the title tune being the true star even without its signature trombone. Bringing things cleanly up to date were Avengers Theme, 667 (Neighbour of the Beast) and the brilliant Prince Among Men from their 2013 String Theory long-player, as well as an outstanding version of The Ethiopions' Train To Skaville which gave the singing crowd an opportunity for a breather, if only for a small moment.

A powerhouse of an evening. It was pure energy from the get-go and at times it was hard to keep up - if they weren't playing, they were dancing. Greg Coulson on keys was truly a force to be reckoned with, while bass player John Thompson was dropping riffs like dynamite. Pauline and Gaps kept things upbeat and creative, dedicating songs to those in the crowd they had met earlier in the foyer and infectiously bouncing the energy back and forth. This formidable pairing had always been the true point of difference, and undoubtedly one of the reasons they are still pulling crowds today.

The only real low point to speak of was their rendition of Doris Day's Secret Love which lacked punch, but that was quickly forgotten as the opening riffs of title tune Too Much Pressure lifted the roof off the place. All hell broke loose. The inclusion of the Toots classic Pressure Drop in the breakdown was simply inspired. I am getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

As I write this my legs are still aching, and my voice still hoarse. From all accounts the Studio was sounding good too, which is a bonus to what was a very special night indeed. My lasting memory will be of Gaps literally dripping with sweat for the final curtain, his saturated black satin shirt looking more like shiny leather under the applauding lights.

Faith restored. Long live The Selecter.