Dub War, The Bassment, Newport
It's virtually impossible to mention Dub War without also mentioning Skindred, not least because the formation of the latter was purportedly borne out of frustrations and a tricky contractual situation involving the former. 2010's The Dub, The War & The Ugly compilation I believe sorted out the contractual situation with Earache and with enough time and water under the bridge to evidently appease the remaining frustrations so it was that Dub War returned in front of a rapturous Newport crowd a mere 16 years after their “final” UK show (the aforementioned compilation states that final show took place in London in January 1998, so the promo material hyping this as the bands' “first show in 18 years” was a little out unless it referred specifically to home town shows).
Anyone who ever saw Dub War live in their 90's heyday could probably tell that the band looked to be going places. With a unique sound and a massively charismatic front man their live shows at the legendary TJ's and other South Wales venues were the stuff of local legend. Thankfully the charismatic front man has in fact gained more charisma in the intervening years and the bands live show is still as tight as a very tight thing.
Strolling on stage clutching an air raid siren and sporting a fetching top hat Benji took the crowd into the palm of his hand as usual and did not let go until the last notes of the show had echoed out of the venue. Sounding said siren (just like old times!) the band launched straight into Psycho System followed by Respected and in doing so lived up to their pre-show promise of lots of old material getting an airing. Indeed, even Crack – a song that only appeared on their début Dub Warning EP until 2010's posthumous compilation was given a rare outing here.
The venue was packed with pretty much every patron in there moving to the stage area as soon as the band came on which made getting a good vantage point to actually see anything quite difficult until things calmed down a few songs into their set – “calm” in a relative sense of course! Even though the majority of the crowd could probably not be described as young they still gave it their all bouncing and moshing their way through the set and giving off an energy that would be impossible for any band to not react to. Judging by the near-permanent grins on the faces of Benji, Jeff, Richie and Ginge it's probably fair to say that the band were having as much fun as the audience were.
As they progressed their way through what was essentially (and necessarily) a greatest hits set I started to notice that Benji wasn't his normal wise cracking, audience baiting self. No, this was a slightly different side to the man, more humble and serious than when fronting Skindred this is yet more evidence of why he is one the best (and most versatile) front men in heavy music today.
As the likes of Nar Say A Ting, Dub War, Fools Gold, Strike It and Gorrit were my own personal highlights of the set it was the closing track that stuck with me the most. That track? Over Now, with one very simple and obvious riposte from myself and every other person crammed into the Bassment to witness a gig 16-18 years in the making that we all probably thought we'd never see (10/10).