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Concert reviews

Twinkle Brothers at The Hootananny - 8th October 2009

The Twinkle Brothers gave the London reggae scene a reviving slap last night with a near two hour long set that had lead singer Norman Grant joking they might run out of songs.

It was a pinnacle performance by the group: made all the more remarkable by the entire touring ensemble bar the drummer having flown in from Hawaii at 10am that morning and, doubtless, feeling rather jetlagged!

Both Twinkle Brothers were in attendance and older sibling Ralston, often absent from recent tours, sang his leads on Jahovia and Nah Let Jah Jah Go with a resonance that charged the crowd. Norman, whose voice can sound a tad rough around the edges on stage, was in flexible fettle: perhaps buoyed by the presence of his brother and a sizeable turnout (despite many scenesters staying away this particular cold south London evening). Add the smoky nasal tones of bassist Dub Judah - who took the vocal spotlight on Babylon Is A Trap - and you heard an outfit at the height of their latterday power.

Where their previous Brixton outing, up the road at JAMM, was marred by the impractical design of the venue (with everyone crammed in the main room, unable to move or breathe) the unpredictable yet atmospheric old Hootananny pub proved a far more suitable setting. The levels were a little uneven at times and there was the odd blast of feedback but, crucially, the overall sound quality was clean and clear. This was especially useful in the second half of the show when, with most of the vintage classics - such as Never Get Burn, Free Africa and breakout Beverly’s hit Somebody Please Help Me - exhausted, they concentrated on newer material less familiar to the ear. These included Get Behind Me Satan, You Nah Get Weh Wid It (dedicated to “all paedophiles and rapists”) and the juggernaut that is Repent (which as usual was the highlight of the night).

The Disciples Russ D tells the story of Jah Shaka effortlessly making his audience sing like a choir over a Twinkle tune. And the Brothers - in many ways the live equivalent of a Shaka set - showed the same level of spiritual command. Throughout the concert the crowd supplied an almost constant bolstering of the vocals without ever once being asked by Norman and co. Meanwhile, the band, locked into the cycle of their US tour, played with an exemplary synergy: the twin guitar attack of Ralston and Black Steel creating a crisp latticework of sound dotted with drummer Prince Barry's brittle rim shots and Aron Shamash's dubby organ licks.

It's been said more than enough times in Reggae News that the British industry leaves room for improvement in terms of structure and support. But with crowds the Twinkle Brother(s) draw in London, one could be forgiven for thinking it was back in its pomp.

Copyright Angus Taylor 9th October 2009 ©

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