Jimmy Cliff @ The Opera House, Bournemouth - April 16th 2008
Jimmy Cliff’s one off taster concert in the UK (before a mooted Glastonbury appearance in the summer) brought Reggae News down to the semi sunny south coast. Bournemouth is a reasonably pleasant place to go out of an evening, but isn’t a massive centre of Caribbean culture, so there was a risk the enormous and atmospheric Opera House might be sparsely attended. With many London gigs by veteran performers only being half full, most prefer to play in tandem these days.
As it turned out, there was no need to worry. Jimmy’s fans were there in impressive numbers, filling the stalls if not quite the gallery. The place was rife with skin-heads (of the drunken but friendly variety) one of whom who would occasionally buttonhole you to talk incomprehensible gibberish before opening his shirt to display his belly with roars of pride.
The PA at the newly renovated Opera House is immensely powerful (avoid the onset of tinnitus and use earplugs if you go) and the support act demonstrated this perfectly by playing back to back Marley covers. After all, what better way to assess a venue's sound than with songs you've heard a thousand times before?
During his interview with Reggae News (which admittedly took place in what was the morning in NYC) Jimmy seemed stately, contemplative and dignified, so the vigour with which he hit the stage for a performance of You Can Get It If You Really Want came as quite a surprise. Dressed in a sort of orange B Boy outfit, he even did some body popping during a cover of Kool & The Gang’s Oo La La Lets Go Dancing. As the show went on he would conserve his energy, tending to go in for well judged bursts of activity towards the end of each tune like a boxer stealing a round, but nonetheless this is a man who shows no overt signs of slowing down.
We got Wild World, Vietnam, a superb Many Rivers To Cross, and an 80s Springsteen style rendition of I Can See Clearly Now, plus two encores, one of which was a Nyabinghi drummed call to Save Our Planet Earth. The Bournemouth Opera House was a first-rate place to see a true legend of music, whose charisma on stage and bond with his excellent band won the night.
Review by Angus Taylor