Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | June 1, 2009
Home : Entertainment
Bands put on good show... but lengthy changes diminish overall impact
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

Rootz Underground's lead singer, Stephen Newland (left), and bassist Colin Young onstage at last Friday night's Bands Incorporated. - Photo by Mel Cooke

Taking the bands as individual units, last Friday night's Bands Incorporated concert on Lindsay Crescent, St Andrew, was an excellent show. C Sharp, Dubtonic, Rootz Underground and openers Pentatuche, although all playing overwhelmingly reggae, are sufficiently individually distinctive to not blur into each other. And they gelled individually to present good packages of approximately an hour each to an audience that initially was substantial for the space, which holds good promise as a venue.

The major drawback, though, was that in terms of set-up time, they did not come close together, much less blur. Each band change was about half-hour long, so by the time Rootz Underground came on to wrap up the show the audience's energy level was way down, save for the 'Rootz' ladies who gathered in front of the stage. With Bands Incorporated being held at the end of the work week, many persons had left by the time Rootz Underground hailed the Unknown Soldier at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday.

And most of those remaining chose to stand further back from the stage, where the sound, already inadequate (there were a few outright glitches at the start of C Sharp's set), did not have the impact that it could and should have had.

Band flexibility

There were some similarities among the three main bands as, at points, each utilised other voices apart from their respective leads (the ladies were especially happy with C Sharp's bassist Aeion Hoilett's smooth delivery). And C Sharp's Chevaughn Clayton and Dubtonic's Kamau both play percussion, in addition to doing lead vocals.

Rootz Underground's lead singer Stephen Newland stands alone with his high leaping and frenzied locks flashing.

Openers Pentatuche did not go much for showmanship in covering Ziggy Marley's True to Myself and a flautist-leading Dreamland. Their reggae originals Trouble and Truths show promise, the band playing dub sections in their songs, as did the other self-contained outfits for various numbers that night.

C Sharp's popularity was evident from the greeting they were given. It was not enough to get the audience to come closer at first, though, despite an invitation from Clayton (whose stage personality is developing well) and the obvious popularity of Don't Go Searching. Family Man, with Michael Sean Harris, went over very well and when Clayton invited all to take seven steps forward, the audience moved forward en masse.

Crowd loved variety

It was time for the ladies with Kiss From a Rose, reggae style, and Let's Get Lifted, keyboard player Dwain Campbell doing lead vocals. The band stitched together their confidence that "she needs my love" with Dennis Brown's Your Love's Got a Hold on Me and Beres Hammond's Groovy Little Thing, to take the audience on a high.

And they closed strong with their What's The Matter With The World.

Dubtonic lived up to its name, delivering heavy rockers where the extended dub version was as much in the foreground as the vocals, the guitarist leaning over at one point to adjust his effects to drop some sizzling riffs. Drummer Jubba White complained a couple times that the sampler was not working, but that did not stop the audience from working up some serious enthusiasm to World Crisis and the advice to "hold on still".

They did go into a guitar-led Free, the guitarist also singing, but in the main, it was rockers and more delightful rockers, a take on Black Uhuru's Shine Eye Gal with only the refrain and the rest of it dub-hitting hard. And Kamau delivered his solo originals Living in Exile and Sight a Revolution before Dubtonic closed a very strong showing with Born Jamaican.

Newland exhaled a stream of blue smoke as he stepped onstage to cheers, after a dub intro from Rootz Underground in which the sound was actually still being adjusted. Unknown Soldier and Raging Bull were the early numbers and Newland, who started his trademark leaps early, really got into 20 Centuries. After Herb Field, Newland took off his jeans jacket as he chanted "love Mama Africa", but by then quite a few people had taken off from Bands Incorporated, a good concert concept with good bands that needs better sound and shorter band changes.

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