Playing for the first time since 2019, founding band member Mark Stewart and dub-master Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell MBE resume their ‘Y in Dub’ festivities, commemorating 40 years of the band’s debut album and appearing as part of Terry Hall’s home sessions at Coventry’s City of Culture.

The Pop Group performed at the Cathedral ruins along with original member Gareth Sagar, Bovell out of sight at the back on live dubbing duties, opening on a spoken word piece before launching into Stewart’s trademark screams and the undulating basslines of ‘Thief Of Fire’, interspersed with Sagar’s shrill clarinet and Stewart’s erratic harmonica; they then went straight into a more screechy version of ‘Blood Money’.

The band continued to play from ‘Y’ with ‘Snow Girl’ and the thundery jungle drums and creeping basslines of ‘The Boys From Brazil’; Sagar on keyboard for the not quite so moody ‘Savage Sea’. After a more subdued start to the set, it hit a high on the whirring ‘Words Disobey Me’ and the guitar-led tracks they ended on: the surf rock and feedback build of ‘We Are Time’ and the choking riff of ‘She Is Beyond Good And Evil’.

Although the set was pretty short (as long as the wait for them to come on!), the tracks underdubbed in places and the atmosphere slightly wanting, what a relief to hear their fresh funk and dub noise live again and a premieral taste of the band’s reconvening of their anniversary celebrations, ahead of their rescheduled tour whenever that may be.

31/07/21: Coventry City Of Culture Terry Hall Home Sessions – The Pop Group @ Cathedral Ruins, Coventry.

Photo © Ayisha Khan.