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Made in Jamaica - Mystic Revelation, Third World, Capleton, Bunny Wailer @ Brixton Academy 15th April 2007

Now this was an interesting bill. Three veteran acts... and Capleton.

From a business point of view, it’s spot on; combining the partisan followers of older artists with the turnout for a big act of today guarantees a full house - and organisers BJ productions had already staged a similar night featuring The Abyssinians, Culture and Luciano in Brixton last June. On the other hand, the smoky Dennis-inspired crooning of The Messenger had a lot more in common with the old school harmony groups he followed than the sedentary drumming of Mystic Revelation has with the heart-stopping juggernaut that is The Fireman’s show. So I was intrigued by how the night would work as a whole.

Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari comprised 5 drummers (1 bass, 2 funde, 2 repeater), a bass guitarist, a saxophonist and a trombonist who took turns on the flute. While only die-hard supporters will know their recent recorded output, such an eminent binghi group are worth watching live even on a bad night, which this wasn’t. They played with a furious youthful energy that got heads nodding in appreciation, hammering out three extended jams including Rivers Of Babylon, and their haunting version of Drum Song.

Compere Daddy Ernie was on excitable, if slightly morbid, form (“you won’t live to see another centennial of the abolition of slavery” “You’re unlikely to see these performers again”) as he praised the drumming collective and introduced a DJ set that included Chuck Fenda and Richie Spice. It went on a bit longer than the allotted 5 minute band change but overall this was another well organised Academy show from the BJ crew.

With their big choruses, virtuoso playing, and formidable stage presence, Third World are to reggae what Funkadelic are to funk (although Cat Coore’s cool, crunchy distorted guitar tones owe more to Prince or Santana than to Eddie Hazell these days), incorporating elements of the rock stadium in to their approach. Again, this was sure to go down well live, while lead singer Bunny Rugs literally filled the hall with his emotive and chesty tenor voice. They played Satta, 96 Degrees, Now That We’ve Found Love, and lots of Marley covers, redeemed by Coore’s electric cello adding something new to the mix. Never a band to take the orthodox reggae route, this was a rewind free set.

Time for another break and an appearance on stage by Dragon’s Den success Levi Roots, who informed us that his Reggae Reggae Sauce is now the highest selling condiment at Sainsburys. No prizes for guessing the tune we heard next.

Once again the DJ set overran and Capleton’s band looked displeased, although their solemnity added to the anticipation of his entrance. Given the traditional organic flavour of the other acts, you might have expected to hear the more laid-back rootsy side of Capleton, as revealed in the more reflective moments on Reign Of Fire.

Wrong! Capleton hit the stage so hard it seemed like all hell was breaking loose. Lighters were instantly thrust into the air, tunes mashed into bits by multiple rewinds, and we were all enlisted as impromptu backing singers to cover the number of vocal overdubs on the records. None of the annoying harangues to get involved you hear from lesser performers, just a jerk of the head (“sing this for me”) and we were doing his bidding. The final encore was delivered from offstage and yet lost nothing. Such is this man’s power.

After Capleton set our pulses racing, Bunny Wailer eased us back down to earth. He played the perfect split of older then newer hits, showing age has not mellowed his spirit as he castigated the engineers between songs for feedback and the low volume of his mic. The voice has faded a little since I saw him at the Brighton Essential Festival ten years ago, but this uplifting yet authoritative performance was a fitting end to a diverse and entertaining show.

Review by Angus Taylor

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