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.
First 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 and 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.