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Concert reviews

Pama International + Easy Star All-Stars @ Dingwalls, London 3rd December 2006

Bands taking over classic hits and re-playing them in their own style is not always the most satisfactory listening experience to those who know every note of the original. Yet, since U-Roy starting recording over treasure isle rocksteady tracks, Jamaica's music industry has thrived, using new adaptations of a handful of classic riddims. And when it comes to adapting classic Rock albums (Pink Floyd's the Dark Side of the Moon or Radiohead's OK Computer) into reggae, the New-Yorkan outfit Easy Star All Stars do it right.

Part of their sold-out UK tour, Easy Star All-Stars were in Camden's Dingwalls alongside Pama international and Nick Manasseh (early DJ set and engineer for Pama) on Sunday 3 December. It's not even 9 o'clock, the place is packed and Pama are already playing their classic "Earthquake". The vibes are already there. The sunday night crowd is not there to forward and pull-up, but everyone seems to be taking in the Pama International set in full approval. Few people seem to take notice of the absence of Lynval Golding who is replaced by the guitarist from Lee Perry's band. What seems to be a half-hour has gone by and a selector is keeping the dancefloor happy with a heavyweight selection of recent hits and serious roots and dub.

Easy Star All-Stars
Easy Star All-Stars. © Augui

Having never listened to either of their two albums in full and/or carefully, I came to see Easy Star All-Stars to discover this band altogether. The first five minutes of their set was very reassuring, a proper roots reggae gig was on. The Rastaman on bass shook the dingwalls PA throughout the night and also provided a warm greeting on the microphone. Yet, no "star" from the all-star outfit ever really takes central stage, with four singers taking the lead on different tracks. Aside from the guitarist and bass, a female singer did very good in her adaptations of tracks like "Karma Police" and got the crowd to sing alongside her on the part "for a minute there...." "I lost myself". But it was surely the Yardie youth that got the most forward with his raggamuffin dancehall style and MC interventions. Indeed, it was not just a matter of playing radiohead in dub. It was clear that Easy All Stars are first a solid reggae band, and a cover-group (with great marketing) second. From one radiohead cover we switch to original tunes which medley into Pink Floyd versions... It's all very nice, and we are brought to forget they are famous for the tunes they cover... They play for more than an hour and half and it is a treat.

Indeed, they should really be famous for the authentic roots vibes they bring. All players of instruments sounded top quality, with a senior Trombone player combining with a Sax player (occasionally on the flute) for some heavy riffs replacing the "hard-rock" breaks of the originals. Only at times does the guitarist use a heavy distortion, certainly to tap-in the rock "market" further, but he did so with parcimony and thus avoided me having to complain about "that noise"... The keyboardist who is also the "musical director" placed subtle sound effects whilst assuming many rhythmic duties. But it's really down to the earth-shattering bassline that the roots vibe is kept alive and ticking. The word at the end of the gig was "i'm buying the album tomorrow" (with american accent), but it true it hard not to be convinced by some pounding reggae taking over in fine style some of the greatest rock ever produced. Big up.

Review by augui dub (soundclash.org)

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