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Concert reviews

Richie Spice @ Melkweg 8th May 2007

“Selassie I the First”

We’re an hour from midnight, the Melkweg is quite literally buzzing with expectation, but Richie Spice is nowhere to be found.

Forget the stereotype of your chilled-out Dutchman; tolerant they may be, but in the Netherlands they like things to happen on time. Earlier in the day I called into the venue to find out when the headlining act would be on and was informed with some displeasure that ‘the last time he was here he was very, very late’. On the plus side the show would end ‘when he decides to finish’ – no stupid curfews like you get in the UK. Both predictions turned out to be entirely accurate.

Despite the delay, the vibes inside seemed far from despondent, although a couple of minor incidents threatened to disrupt the peace. Several of us were almost bowled over by a group of young men running to the exit carrying a friend who’d passed out in the heat and/or smoke, then a scuffle broke out between some beered up affluent twenty-somethings and a short woman with a top knot hair style and a killer left hook.

At a quarter to twelve the band crossed the stage sheepishly, instruments strapped to their backs, the lights dipped and we were finally on our way. Unlike the festival atmosphere of a London gig, there was no poetry, no community announcements, and, having gauged the mood of the crowd, the support act wisely trimmed their set to just two songs, before moving upstage to take backing duties as our prodigal performer sauntered into view.

“Selassie I the First”

Like an experienced public speaker using a call-back line to punctuate his speech Richie Spice used the same phrase at the close of each song, grounding proceedings with the power of his words. He hardly moved all night, just stood, centre stage, swaying slightly, bemused, grinning from ear to ear; peering out from behind bleary heavily lidded eyes at the fans gathered to celebrate his increasingly formidable talent.

For as any fool knows, latest album From The Streets To Africa is far and away his most accomplished and he pretty near played it all. From Sunny Day to High Grade to Grooving My Girl, every tune was carried off with aplomb - and of course everyone lost it to Brown Skin and Youths So Cold. Two returns to the stage later when he finally finished the DJ, in an unusual display of completism, played us the few songs we missed.

The Fifth Element Band gave an ample demonstration of the advantages to working with your own musicians, with a distinctive slightly plasticky rock sound reminiscent of Morgan Heritage’s live album Another Rockaz Moment (coincidentally also recorded in the Dam) that turned older tracks like Marijuana and More Terrible all the way up to 11.

“Selassie I the First”

No curfew, two lengthy encores, and a bundle of hits – this was an exemplary gig - although I wouldn’t have wanted to have been one of those who waited for it from 9pm! Richie Spice is a master songsmith and a solid live act; catch him when he hits these shores.

Review by Angus Taylor

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