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Concert reviews

Roots & Culture Splash: Michael Prophet, Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, Michael Rose @ The Forum, 5th November

With a superb concert by The Congos, the Gladiators and Dr Alimantado the night before, the second half of the year’s biggest weekend of reggae in London had a lot to live up to. On the other hand, boasting some of the most heralded performers from the 70s and 80s on the bill, there was every chance that it could.

Once again, ticket holders were let in with little or no fuss at the Forum, something almost unheard of for UK reggae events of this size. Drawing a far ‘dreader’ crowd than 24 hours previously, the deejay played mainly modern artists, and the slightly irritating sound problems of the previous night had been fully resolved. All around the venue were signs stating that ‘all bands must be off stage by 11.45 sharp’, so in retrospect, a couple of (short) warm up performances over established riddim backing tracks by local artists demonstrated a somewhat lax attitude to the time constraints.

Michael Prophet
Michael Prophet © Angus Taylor

The magical Michael Prophet offered up another faultless performance. This wild-eyed master show-man of roots and culture gives the impression of being never happier than when on stage, delivering all his finest songs, all in that unique ‘wolfs howl’ of a voice. If you want entertainment, and 110% effort every time, do not miss this man live.

Mr Horace Andy was also on top form, playing the best set I’ve seen in the five or six times I’ve caught him in concert, with lesser known favourites like Children Of Israel alongside the perennials like Cuss Cuss, and Every Tongue shall tell, always announced as his ‘favourite studio 1 song’. He certainly has plenty of good ones to choose from. There were no Massive Attack songs this time, wisely judged given the audience, and they responded so well that Horace was brought on for a lengthy encore which would cut into the stage time of later acts.

Horace Andy
Horace Andy © Angus Taylor

Further upliftment was to come, with ‘value added’ set of the weekend coming from Johnny Clarke, who had looked thinner but a little ragged last time he was in London. He has put some weight back on, but was in rude health; his voice sounding stronger than has in the last few years. Of course he played all the classics - he always does - and it was great to see the ‘idler’ doing his thing while looking so well.

Michael Rose was last to appear and well worth the wait. Compared to the other performers he stayed remarkably still, yet maintained a commanding, almost magisterial presence on stage. He treated us to lots of Black Uhuru numbers, including a satisfyingly rootsy version of Party Next Door, and while it would have been nice to hear more of his solo work, the sheer quality and consistency of the evening left no room for complaint. Sadly the aforementioned curfew, already exceeded by an hour, meant we didn’t get Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner or Abortion, but these events will never run like clockwork. A special mention is also due for the ever dependable Dub Asante Band, featuring a full horn section, who played tirelessly the whole night.

Congratulations to all involved in two well organised, generously funded, and above all, brilliantly performed shows. With so many who enjoy the records under the false impression that live reggae isn’t worth seeing, nights like this are a must.

Review by Angus Taylor

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