Alabama 3

Astoria, London

"We want death, violence and dead children," shouts an anonymous character in full drag. A fog of dry ice and blood red lighting saturate the stage. Figures emerge and the crowd goes mad: the Alabama brotherhood, from the deep south of Brixton, has arrived.

are everything you might have heard. Their show's all cowboy hats, fake southern drawls, and has more than a touch of the Baptist church service feel about it.

But this is no ordinary church. It is the Presleytarian Church of Elvis the Divine UK, and Elvis the King is their god. The band like to have fun and to get a reaction. They want to spread their word and celebrate the joys of Country and Western but also of Socialism. They revel in their anarchic anti-establishment image. ACC - Accelerated Class Consciousness - is their drug, they say. One hit, apparently, and "you're a street fighting man".

The music is a combination of country and techno. It is music to dance to, which looks back to Robert Johnson and Hank Williams, throwing in a bit of Howlin Wolf along the way. Johnny Cash is a hero of theirs and to show their respect, they dedicate a song just to him, while later in the set "The Night We Nearly Got Busted" gets dedicated to Scotland Yard police. Rich harmonica sounds and the throaty twang of the vocalsdraped around a sexy beat and catchy choruses certainly got their followers singing along.

"Ain't Goin' to Goa" and "U Don't Dance 2 Tekno" are probably their best known songs, having had a fair amount of air play. The first knocks the trustafarian hippy brigade washed up on the beaches of Goa, while the second laments those damaged by the drug culture of the Eighties.

Unfortunately, the sound was not good. The lyrics, so essential to the structure and relevance of the tracks, were drowned out and the keyboardist might as well have been miming at times. A disappointment, though clearly not to their large, heavily body-pierced fan base (the streets of Brixton must have been empty that night), who knew all the words and didn't need to strain their ears to understand the fuzzy murmurings.

, reputedly signed to Geffen for pounds 1m, is anything but a modest trio. The stage can be filled with up to 20 members at one time - and every one a character. Well endowed drag nurses, with white stockings and obscenely short, fantasy nurse outfits, appeared at one point wielding vast, heart- covered syringes to accompany "Hypo Full of Love". And, all the while, a tattooed heavy kept an eye on proceedings from the edge of the stage.

Topless, bearded and clutching a can of beer, he stared impassively out into the audience from behind his dark shades. These are showmen who like to put on a cabaret. It is gimmicky and tongue in cheek, but as the album Exile on Coldharbour Lane testifies, the music is good with or without the visual gags.

And while the strobe-laden air lit up the venue like sheet lightning, it seemed a gospel fervour had indeed taken over the crowd who waved their arms in trance-like ecstasy.

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