REVIEW: Soul II Soul @Brighton Dome

Craig Hanlon-Smith October 22, 2018

Back to Life. Soul II Soul’s 30th anniversary tour stops at The Brighton Dome.

WHEN British soul legends Soul II Soul formed in 1987 they were known as a ‘sound system’ DJing at parties and club nights whilst promoting their own ‘Funki Dred’ line of clothing.  There are (many) moments during Sunday night’s Brighton show where it feels as though nothing has changed. When Jazzie B makes his way onto the stage he takes his place onto an exhaulted podium from which he DJ’s, sings, enthuses and proclaims his messages of positivity, optimism and man as sunshine to an enthralled and energetic audience.

Although now 30 years in, his approach seems as youthful and soaked in genuine hope as their ‘New Decade’ show at The Brixton Academy in 1990, when they were scoring multiple hits and accolades on both sides of the Atlantic. Songs tonight’s crowd are no less enthusiastic for three decades later. And although his image adorns both the merchandise and stage backdrops the night does not belong to Jazzie alone. With a crew of performers which is never less than thirteen strong at a time, the current line up which includes long-standing collaborators Caron Wheeler and Charlotte Kelly packs a punch.

The Wheeler lead Keep on Movin kicks off proceedings and the audience goes nuts. The Dome can be a peculiar concert venue, its architecture and muted aesthetic encouraging a conservative audience, but at the hands of one of the greatest soul and funk exports the UK has to offer, the former palace stables are no match for this sound system.

Without a momentary break between numbers, the band storm through the impressive back catalogue of A Dream’s a Dream, Wish, Missing You, Get a Life, Zion and culminating in a rousing Back to Life. Their live set pumps through its soul and funk origins and pushes the famous house piano rhythms into this decade with a live feel that is both contemporary and familiar.

Wheeler and Kelly are strong front women and they both excel as does the terrific eight piece band but the whole show is underpinned with a three piece vocal group it would be churlish to call ‘backing’. Positioned at the front of the band they shake, bounce and smile for all of us as their vocals soar through tonights non-stop two-hour soul symphony.  They both reflect and dictate the mood of the crowd, they are a triumph.

In these uncertain and sometimes hostile political times, Soul II Soul are a reminder of the need to remain positive, optimistic and how we are very much in control of our own sunshine. With a 1500 strong crowd singing back at them “soul to soul I love you, soul to soul I care” Jazzie B and Co may well have dreamed this dream 30 years ago but tonight they brought it back to life. Long may they reign.

Soul II Soul tour until December including London on October 28.

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Review by Craig Hanlon-Smith