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Horace Andy & Ashley Beedle @ Jazz Cafe

Horace Andy on stage is practically a sure thing. His voice is in exemplary nick for a reggae veteran, he usually uses a solid collective of players under the name the Dub Asante band, and discussions of the relative merits of his gigs tend to rest on whether he sang this or that tune or whether he was backed by a full set of horns...

But tonight things are a little different. The first half of the show brings his collaboration with producer/remixer Ashley Beedle (for the second in Strut records’ Inspiration Information series) to a live setting. After which, Andy and the Dub Asante band will return to play the many hits of Horace’s prestigious career.

Inspiration Information the album had a sparse, sketchy quality, and for the live shows the potential to fill out the arrangements might have been tempting. But as a skeleton staff of musicians– keyboards, guitar and Ashley Beedle on samples and drum machine – arrive to Grounation drumming, it becomes apparent that this temptation has been ignored. Clearly the minimal nature of Beedle’s backing tracks is 100% by design.

Following a righteous speech by Beedle, Horace Andy appears. There is some messing about with lyric sheets and loose banter, and then the quartet breaks into a near note perfect recreation of the record’s opener When The Rain Falls.

The interplay between the guitar and keys offers the most in terms of embellishment, with Ashley Beedle often left with little to do except nod his head, conduct with his single drumstick or hit the odd rim shot. Meanwhile Horace himself gives a typically effortless vocal display throughout, holding the longest notes with ease.

The crowd sway approvingly to the mesmerizing grooves of album standouts like Seek it and Watch We. Vegetarian single Rasta Don’t gets a certain section of the audience dancing (mainly affluent looking female under 25s – the song’s secondary target market). The monstrous, unstoppable bass line of Babylon You Lose (derived from the rhythm of Clive Hunt’s 70s hit Jah Jah Bless I) is a taste of the more conventional roots music to come. The final tune of act one, Festival Song, is the set’s only rewind.

All in all the material feels much as it on disc: clinical, minimalist and at times slightly cold. The covers of Bob Marley’s Hypocrites and The Rolling Stones’ Angie make the biggest impact, highlighting the scarcity of proper songwriting on the rest of the album. That said, it is impossible to ignore how revitalised and happy Horace is in these contemporary experimental surroundings, beaming and joking with the players and fans.

After guest selector David Katz drops an almost unfeasibly long (yet fascinating) procession of cuts on the rhythm to Devon Irons When Jah Come, the Dub Asante Band descend the stairs from backstage. They start with an imposing instru-dub, the version to Ken Boothe and Tommy Cowan’s reworking of the Godfather theme. Horace Andy then returns for part two.

He teases a little with marginally lesser-known works such as Spying Glass, before giving in to popular pressure with a leisurely, skanking Quiet Place. The band plays well: with smart touches from the trombone (courtesy of Matic Horns’ Buttons) and the organ (by the keyboardist from the previous set).

More big tunes follow. We hear Problems, Children Of Israel and a very faithful performance of the Bunny Lee production of Money The Roots Of All Evil (with Buttons’ trombone parts the icing on the cake). During the riotously received Rasta Wah She Want, Andy holds the hand of a mature lady down the front for the refrain “pretty young girl” proving the adage that you are only as old as you feel. For Skylarking he introduces one of his sons to sing a verse.

A lengthy encore features an extended Cus Cus and the inevitable Massive Attack’s Hymn Of The Big Wheel. But instead of ending there, he pulls out an incredible rendition of the Studio 1 classic See A Man’s Face, a worthy treat for those with the energy to stay past the midnight hour.

Prior London outings by Horace Andy such as his show last November at Carling Academy Islington (while technically impressive as always) felt somewhat sedate by comparison. This time, buoyed by his new project, Horace performs with a vigour he usually saves for a more traditional reggae crowd.

Review by Angus Taylor

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