Get Out Gigging

I saw a band…here’s what I think…

Damien Marley, Somerset House, London. Fri 7th July, 2017

Support comes from David “Ram Jam” Rodigan, long time veteran Reggae DJ who warms up the crowd with a variety of classic tunes. His good natured and enthusiastic interjections gets the crowd moving as the open courtyard of Somerset House slowly fills up.

Next up is the singer Black Am I, part of the Ghetto Youth International set up that Damien Marley is involved in. He sings “Black Am I” and “Living Dread”, two conscious and rootsy songs that server as a good opener for the main event.

Damien Marley’s band take to the stage and play a short instrumental. They’re made up of drums, bass, lead guitar, two keyboard players and two female backing singers as well as a kind of ‘Rasta Bez’ figure whose sole purpose is to wave a huge red, gold and green flag above his head for the entire performance, good stamina!

The band then begin the booming intro to “Make It Bun Dem” and Marley comes bounding onto the stage to a sea of the now obligatory phone cameras held aloft. He then launches into “Confrontation” and from there we get a great run down of songs from his previous albums. His fourth album “Stony Hill” is out now and from this the band plays “Medication”, “Nail Pon Cross” and “Caution”.

There’s a touching moment halfway through the set when Damien and the band launch into some of his father’s songs, with “Is This Love” prompting an enthusiastic audience sing along. The two backing dancers also execute some nifty dance moves during the performance of “Exodus”.

Throughout the set he keeps the crowd engaged, a really good front man delivering an entertaining set. They encore with his monster hit “Welcome To Jamrock” which still sounds epic considering it was released in 2005 and that’s the end of the show as we reach the curfew at 23.00.

Gigs at Somerset House during their annual “Summer Series” programme of events are always worth attending. The former Tudor palace is a great location for gig going
and with artists of Damien Marley’s calibre you’ll be guaranteed an entertaining spectacle.


Damian Marley

Somerset House


London African Gospel Choir, Concorde 2, Brighton. Thurs 29th Jun, 2017

trioThe London African Gospel Choir is a huge musical ensemble that¬†reflects the diversity of the African and Caribbean diaspora. Tonight the choir is made up of six female and two male singers one of whom comes from Jamaica, the rest coming from different parts of Africa. They’re ably backed by a lively band comprising drums, percussion, bass, guitar and two keyboards players either side of the stage.


Tonight they begin the set by singing some of their own songs before playing the wholemale singer of Paul Simon’s 1986 “Graceland” album. It’s easy to forget the controversy this record provoked at the time, with Jerry Dammers, Paul Weller and Billy Bragg condemning the recording of the album when there was still a cultural boycott of South Africa, although Simon did work with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and was encouraged by Hugh Masekela.

SingerThere’s no denying it was a great album though, filled with the witty and emotional song writing that Paul Simon is known for. The members of the choir take it in turn to sing lead on different songs and really make them their own. There are impressive versions of all the songs with great harmonies and lead vocals from all involed. The whole set is extremely well received, “The Boy In The Bubble“, “Under African Skies“, “I Know, I Know” and “Crazy Love, Part II” all getting great reactions.

Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” and the instantly recognisable intro to “You Can Call Me Al” also do down really well, the all age audience singing along and staying enthusiastically involved throughout the whole set.

They encore with an extended instrumental with the men in the choir showcasing their “gumboot” dance moves and a final African song that involves stomping away your troubles. The London African Gospel Choir have taken an album mired in controversy and transformed it into an uplifting and celebratory event.


The Impressions, Union Chapel, London. Tues 13th June, 2017

Having originally formed in 1958, The Impressions are now on their farewell tour. Fittingly for their brand of Gospel-orientated soul, they’re playing in the Union Chapel.

They’re backed by the eight piece Curtom band, comprising drums, percussion, rhythm guitar, bass, trombone, trumpet, sax, keyboards and it’s a measure of their enduring appeal of their songs that they open with “It’s Alright” and “Gypsy Woman” from their first LP “The Impressions” released in 1963.

They’ve had various line up changes along the way but original members Sam Gooden and Fred Cash still make up the backbone of the trio. Of course, it’s the insprirational songs of Curtis Mayfield that have endured and we get to hear the classics “People Get Ready“, “Keep On Pushing“, “I’m So Proud” and “We’re a Winner“. Fred Cash mentions Curtis Mayfields’ death in 1999 and the lasting legacy of his songs, also telling us that “Choice Of Colors” from 1969 wasn’t played on the radio at the time as it was deemed too controversial.

The group have been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame as well as the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame and it’s easy to see why with their assured and polished soulful vocals, getting the sold out crowd to sing and clap along.

It’s a great but far too short 75 minute set which ends with a largely instrumental version of “Move On Up” and leave the stage waving and saying good bye to their London fans for the last time.


Chronixx & the Zincfence Redemption Band, Brixton Academy, London. Sun 28th May, 2017

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend, and the line for the Brixton Academy goes round the entire block as a steady stream of Reggae fans enter the venue for the London date of the Chronology tour.

70-year-old veteran Dub producer King Jammy and his son play some bass heavy grooves which include a fitting tribute to Dancehall star Frankie Paul who died aged 51 of complications related to kidney failure on 18th May, 2017.

The packed venue welcomes 24-year- old Jamar McNaughton aka Chronixx onto the stage as the band strike up the introduction to “Alpha and Omega” from the 2014 “Dread and Terrible” EP.

The band Zincfence Redemption are made up of drums, bass, keyboards, with lead and rhythm guitar and are a tight knit unit who play together with real feeling. It’s interesting to note that “Chronology” will be his debut album as the set tonight is made up of plenty of already classic songs which the entire crowd sings along to.

So we get to hear well known songs like “Eternal Fire“, “Here Comes Trouble“, “They Don’t Know“, “Smile Jamaica” and “Capture Land“, all of which keep the packed vnue singing and dancing along.

New songs like¬†“Skanking Sweet” and “Likes” from the new album continue in the vein of the more well known songs, with great words and bass heavy grooves. He even plays “Who Knows“, his collaboration with Protoje, singing both parts and getting a great crowd reaction.

Alongside Protoje, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal and Jah 9, Chronixx is yet another exceptional performer of Roots Reggae music who is destined to be around for a long time based on the strength of this excellent performance.



London International Ska Festival Boat Cruise. Fri 14th April, 2017

The London International Ska Festival usually kicks off over the Easter period, and we’re here for the annual cruise on the River Thames aboard the Dixie Queen. First on are The Magic Touch, a Berlin five piece who play Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae. Their danceable set includes a lively version of The Clash’s “Safe European Home“, and soon gets the packed boatload of Ska fans jumping around. They’re also going to serve as the backing band for the two singers on the bill, so it’s a long gig for them this afternoon.

Christopher EllisFirst singer up is London born Christopher Ellis, the son of the legendary “Godfather of Rocksteady” Alton Ellis, who had been based in the UK since the Seventies up until his death in 2008. Sporting a smart naval jacket and cap, Chris proceeds to entertain with a lively set. His Dad wrote the classic “I’m Still In Love With You” in 1967, and it’s great to hear the son doing such a great job of his father’s song.

It’s a lively and entertaining set, with Christopher engaging the audience, shaking hands with skinhead fans down the front and generally being a fantastic front man. He’s well received by the up-for-it crowd, these events usually have a good fan following, before he makes way for Bitty McLean to take the stage.

Birmingham born Bitty McLean also delivers a danceable set, his voice sounding clear andBitty McLean strong as he sings a crowd pleasing set that includes “Walk Away From Love” and “In And Out Of Love“. Unfortunately, one woman decided to get on stage to have her picture taken with him mid-song, and this led to the rest of his set being spoilt by a steady stream of women getting on stage to have their pictures taken too. At one point he stopped to good naturedly say that he’s in the middle of a show, but this didn’t stop the female admirers from getting their self-satisfied selfies.

The shows put on as part of the cruise are always good, but this was definitely one of the best ones I’ve seen so far. Good work by Sean Flowerdew for putting this and the whole of the London International Ska Festival on and good work by The Magic Touch band for playing a great set and backing the performers.


The Magic Touch Band

London Ska Festival

Wilko Johnson, Assembly Hall, Worthing. Thurs 13th April, 2017

Support comes from Mollie Marriott (the daughter of the Small Faces front man Steve Marriott). She’s got a debut album out “Truth Is A Wolf” which I’m guessing makes up the bulk of tonight’s set. It’s a self assured performance and she possesses a decent voice, there was just nothing that particularly stood out about the set.

wilko 2There’s been much written about Wilko Johnson’s battles with cancer and his subsequent operations and recovery, and after attending his farewell gig in London it’s fantastic to see him back on the road playing music. He’s backed by drummer Dylan Howe and infamous Blockhead’s bassist Norman Watt-Roy with Wilko playing his famous red and black Fender Telecaster.

The power trio kick off with “All Right” from his 1980 album “Ice On The Motorwaywilko 1and it’s a shame the venue is seated as his uptempo brand of R ‘n B, Blues and Rock is more suited to great to dance to. Throughout the set we get the trademark Wilko thousand yard stare as well as the gliding from side to side in time to his choppy guitar licks. It’s a hyperactive set peppered with Dr. Feelgood songs as to be expected, including “Going Back Home“, “Roxette“, “Sneakin’ Suspicion“, “Paradise“, “Back In The Night” and “She Does It Right“. The Feelgood songs particularly still stand up and draw a great reaction from the older crowd, not bad for forty year old tunes. He also plays a cover version of the Bob Dylan song “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?” as well as “Everybody’s Carrying A Gun” from the “Going Back Home” number one album that he did with Roger Daltrey in 2014.

During this song he introduces the band and we get a pounding drum solo from Dylan Howe and a funky bass solo from Norman, who by now is absolutely dripping with sweat, as anyone who has ever seen him play with The Blockheads will have seen before.

They encore with “Bye Bye Johnny” by way of tribute to Chuck Berry and that’s the end of the set. Great that Wilko is still playing his brand of dynamic, killer music. He’s 70 this year and looks to be healthy. Here’s hoping he’s around for a good while yet.


Mollie Marriott


Seun Kuti, Concorde 2, Brighton. 22nd Mar, 2017

Support comes from Lakuta, a Brighton based collective with a new album “Brothers and Sisters” on the local Tru Thoughts label. They play an infectious blend of Afrobeat, with Kenyan-Tanzanian vocalist Siggi Mwasote ensuring the crowd are nicley warmed up with her exuberant performance.

seun kutiAfter a short break, Egypt 80 are introduced one at a time and take to the stage. The large band, many of whom played with Fela Kuti, are comprised of drums, bass, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, batitone sax, congas, two other percussionists and two female backing singers.

They immediately strike up a lively Afro-Funk horn-led groove and the trumpet player begins to sing “African Soldier”, the first song on the 2011 album “From Africa With Fury: Rise”. He then introduces Seun Kuti, a jovial figure who bounds onto the stage in a brightly patterned outfit. He starts with “Mr Follow Follow”, one of his Dad’s songs, a harsh critique of those who follow religion without question.

Throughout the gig he delivers good natured speeches that contain barbed references to Christians, Muslims, intolerance, racism and the treatment of poor people throughout the World. He introduces a new song from their latest E.P. “Struggle Sounds”, repeating the title several times before telling us that the song “Gimme My Vote Back (C.P.C.D)” stands for “Corporate Public Control Department”. In true Kuti tradition it’s a song about the inefficiency of government and politicians that manages to be upbeat and groove heavy without being too preachy.

The whole band are lively and enthusiastic performers, with the two singers also displaying seun saxnifty dance moves. Seun Kuti occasionally plays alto sax or moves stage right to play keyboards, but most of the time he’s the main focus centre stage delivering an energetic performance that leaves him sweating and removing his shirt to play the rest of the set bare-chested.

He casually mentions that they usually play for four hours in Nigeria, so with the eleven p.m. curfew here in Brighton he’s playing for a quarter of his usual time for twice the price. They end their jubilant set with “Theory Of Goat And Yam” and I’m sure the packed and enthusiastic crowd would have been happy to dance along with Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 for longer.



Tru Thoughts

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

Jazzy Jeff, Concorde 2, Brighton. Weds 9th Nov, 2016

Jeff Townes, aka DJ Jazzy Jeff is a DJ and producer best known for his work with Will Smith. In 1989, they got the first ever Grammy in Hip Hop (for “Parents Just Don’t Understand”) and as a producer Jazzy Jeff has also worked with artists as diverse as Jill Scott and Emimem.

jazzy-jeffComing from an era when playing a Hip Hop set meant playing anything in your record collection that will keep a crowd moving he enthusiastically plays an assortment of songs ranging from Funk, Soul, Reggae and Hip Hop (though I could have done without hearing “Africa” by Toto and “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins).

He’s aided by an MC who keeps a largely enthusiastic crowd hyped up without chatting mcover the songs too much (something anyone MC-ing should be aware of). All though the set, vocals and beats are expertly mixed and his cutting and scrathing is rhythmic and on time (something anyone DJ-ing should be aware of).

It’s good to hear someone with an obvious love of music playing a snapshot of their record collection. He comes from a long like of Philly DJ’s who knows how to move a crowd. One of my favourite DJ’s working today.


DJ Jazzy Jeff

Don Letts, St Pauls, Worthing. Sat 5th Nov, 2016

Not a gig tonight, but a DJ set. Don Letts is a London born musician and film director who has alo been a DJ since the days of the Punk venue The Roxy in the Seventies.

He’s here tonight in Worthing to play a set that encompasses Ska, Dub and Roots Reggae. Reggae has long been a genre of music that is fond of a cover version and there are plenty in Don Letts’ set. So we get to hear Reggaefied versions of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” by Prince Fatty featuring Little Roy, The Chosen Few’s “People Make The World Go Round” and “Son Of A Preacher Man” by The Gaylettes (featuring Judy Mowatt who later joined the I-Threes to sing with Bob Marley). The cover versions are played alongside long standing favourites like Bob Marley and Toots And The Maytals.

Still preferable to slack Dancehall tunes, it was a set that wan’t bad just not particularly adventurous.


Don Letts on 6 music



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