With ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ being, in my humble opinion, one of the very best albums released in 2019 thus far the prospect of catching Alvin Gibbs and his band of Disobedient Servants live on a short run around the UK was just too much of a “one of kind” opportunity to be overlooked, plus the gig is in one of the best venues Bristol has to offer, so a ticket for this must-attend event was duly purchased.
For those of you who might never have been to The Louisiana it’s got that fantastic upstairs above a pub vibe going for it and over the years it has seen everyone from Airbourne to Fleet Foxes treading its – oh so low it could be a step – stage. Views in this place are of a premium when it’s packed out so that’s why even before local street punks Criminal Mind takes to the stage the place is a tippy toe view only kind of full.
I’m actually embarrassed to say I’ve never seen or heard Criminal Mind before tonight, I’m embarrassed because with over 10 years together as a band, playing hundreds of shows around the UK, I’m not entirely sure how they have evaded me. Their set tonight is packed full of great tunes (which I’m of course hearing for the first time) all loaded up with chant-along choruses and delivered with the kind of enthusiasm and attitude that first made me fall in love with the ‘Total 13’ era Backyard Babies. There’s a hint of The Living End to be heard during the anthemic ‘Blood On The Cobbles’ plus a dash of Rancid on show when bassist Ben Dowling takes over the vocals mid-set but what Criminal Mind do have in spades is their own identity – something which is not lost on the diehards who holler back every word. We always love it when a new (?) band falls into our laps here at RPM towers and with their third album due to be released very soon you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be catching up with Criminal Minds very soon indeed.
Promising tracks from the ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ album along with some choice Gibbs voiced Subs tunes plus maybe a few surprises (and guests) along the way reports online that the aptly named Disobedient Tour has been doing brisk business ticket wise is reassuring to hear given the apathy a lot of venues (not the Louisiana I might add) across the UK seemingly has towards original music right now. The army of West Country UK Subs fans makes sure that tonight is no exception and the Cheshire Cat grins on the faces of Alvin Gibbs, Leigh Heggarty and Jamie Oliver as they fight their way through the crowd to the stage does indeed speak volumes. This promises to be everything I thought it might be…even if we don’t actually get any special guests here tonight.
Kicking off with the opening 1-2 from the ‘Servants’ album, ‘Arterial Pressure’ and ‘Ghost Train’ is simply stunning in the live setting, the latter still the best Iggy song Iggy never wrote with Alvin commanding the dual role of bassist and lead singer with consummate ease. ‘Bordeaux Red’ is the first of the UK Subs songs to be aired tonight and it’s here that Gibbs truly shines in his day job, twisting his body and the strings on his Fender Precision into places other bassists can only dream of going. Elsewhere there’s a ferocious two-song tribute (‘Down On The Streets’ and ‘1969’) to Alvin’s stint with Iggy all complete with a hilarious Iggy V’s Charlie anecdote that I won’t spoil here, and then there’s Leigh Heggarty taking over the mic for a fantastic version of ‘In A Rut’ that perfectly segues into ‘Warhead’ mid-song. Of the other Subs tunes aired ‘Stare At The Sun’ from ‘XXIV’ is the wildcard Gibbs has personally chosen whilst ‘Dragging Me Down’ from ‘Killing Time’ sounds reborn devoid of the awful late-80s production that drowned that LP.
Of course tonight is really all about the ‘Your Disobedient Servant’ album and the trio certainly do not disappoint delivering the likes of ‘Dumb’ (dedicated to Trump, Farage and Bojo), ‘Clumsy Fingers’, ‘Polemic’, ‘Camden Town Gigolo’, ‘I’m Not Crying Now’ and a frantic ‘Back To Mayhem’ like the band have been on the road for months…not days. Credit also that the guys effortlessly pull off the epic soundscape that is ‘Heaven And Angels’ even with Alvin complaining his throat was a bit sore after 6 consecutive shows this really is a faultless performance.
Encoring with a run through of Ian Hunter’s ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’ and Urban Dogs’ ‘A Bridge Too Far’ the Servants eventually have the venue lights turned on as a subtle reminder they have broken all the Sunday night curfew rules and probably should know better than that by now…but what the hell this is punk rock, right?
Make sure you catch Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants live at Rebellion Festival this August it’s one set you really do not want to be missing.
Author: Johnny Hayward