Sizzla & Turbulence @ The Stratford Rex, Saturday 29th August 2003
This show had been waited for with great anticipation by myself, first time seeing the man and all that! I wasn't actually sure who was the supporting act on the night, with it not being advertised before hand, but was very pleased to see Turbulence on the lineup.
First up was UK artist, Joe Tex, backed by the Fire Red band. He sounded very much like Bunny Wailer and had some nice tunes, but unfortunately his engineers messed about and the mike levels were so low you could hardly hear him. Actually the vibe before the show had been killed somewhat by the selector, Bobo el Numero Uno, who couldn't seem to hit the right spot. He was playing a whole heap of dub plates (yawn) when I first arrived that no-one was really interested in hearing. He eventually got the crowd enjoying themselves with a little Garnet Silk selection, but then switched again and lost us, mainly by talking so much in between tunes. It just felt well dry and your foot start to burn you and your back to ache and I caught myself repeatedly checking my watch. He was joined by another selector who made things even worse, keeping a whole heap of noise and stupid talk over a hardcore bashment selection. No nice vibes at all.
Things improved greatly when Robbo Ranx (Of the BBC's 1Xtra digital station) took over and got things underway with a beautiful selection of big tunes, Capleton, Bushman, Buju Banton, Luciano etc etc... he had the crowd with lighters in the air and partying at last !
Daddy Ernie was MC for the night and did an admirable job, looking militant in his khaki fatigues !
So, on came The Firehouse Crew to set up and then kick in with a big introduction. Sounding wonderful as ever, although missing the live horns thing, which keyboards can never make up for. And on came Turbulence who did about a half hour set. Good to see him and lively enough a performance, although he tended towards screaming into the mike so rendering his message unintelligable to many. He performed "Dem Crying" from the Different Thing album as well as the title track "The Truth" from his new album, among others. He left the crowd happy, coming back to do an encore. It will be good to check him again in time, to see how he develops as a live performer. Certainly you can see how his vocals have grown when you check his albums, of which "The Future" is one of my faves'.
Then came the Kalonji. The crowd was packing forward in anticipation as the opening refrain of "Praise Ye JAH" kicked in and on he came in Denim suit and with his turban covered in an Ites coloured ski hat. The crowd went mad and kept up the support throughout, singing along to EVERY tune, word for word. He covered all his classics, "Good ways", "Like Mountain", "King in this Jungle" and nicely introduced a Binghi backed version of "Black Woman & Child". He ran through them all, giving a strong performance of each, touching on just over half the song, before blending into another, such is his catalogue of anthems.
Sizzla was pure energy and spirit, and commanded the stage, certainly knowing how to carry an audience with him. A good proportion of the set was given over to Da Real Thing album....."Why Should I", Simplicity", "Woman I need you", Trod Mount Zion", "Got it right here", "Solid as a rock" and of course saving the 2 huge hits for last..."Just one of those days" and "Thank you Mama" to finish the night... It just made you realise what a great album this is compared to the rest of his output over the last few years.
Sizzla certainly kept his stage show 100% conscious, even when he touched on a couple of bashier offerings. For instance when he voiced "Come on" on the Mexican rhythm, he adapted the lyrics to keep it strictly upful. Equally, I have to say, I was very impressed with his vocals live. Why he doesn't stick to this style once in the studio I don't know, but on stage he kept within his vocal range and gave a fabulous performance. No off key catawauling, cringe-worthy falsettos or strange experimentations at all. He just stuck to what he is good at - quality DJ'ing and some very decent singing efforts. He certainly controls and focuses his vocals far more on stage than he seems to in a studio, when it too often sounds now as if over-excitement, aggression and an attitude of lets 'do this and done', has taken over. This was Sizzla as I came to love him from Praise Ya Jah & Black Woman & Child albums. Chanting pure righteousness, imparting knowledge and consciousness to the people and defending the youths as always, this was a knock out performance from the man. Don't miss him when he's in town!
Review by Sister Ali