Lucid Culture


Concert Review from the Archives: Israel Vibration at Irving Plaza, 8/23/96

[Editor’s note: since we’re on vacation, we’ve gone through the archives for some memorable NYC shows from the past several years. Back in the 80s and 90s, August was usually reggae month: here’s a prime example.]

A solid hour and a half of some of the best original roots reggae around. The Roots Radics, roots reggae icons Israel Vibration’s longtime backing band, opened with a 45-minute set of their own, vastly inferior material, surprising considering what a terrific band they are. Bassist Flabba Holt led them, showing off his signature pulse and smartly, unpredictably melodic riffs. Finally, after an instrumental medley of hits (including Gregory Isaacs’ Night Nurse), the vocal trio came up to the stage and delivered an excellent, stop-and-start, exhortative performance. “Yes I” became the phrase of the evening: they’d start a song, go as far as the first verse, then stop it and start over again as the audience predictably roared and screamed. Together Wiss, Skelly and Apple – who famously began the band in the bush after leaving the orphanage, all three of them having survived childhood battles with polio – have a nonchalant chemistry that transcends their limitations as singers (their harmonies are melodic but not particularly on-key). It’s their songs that stand out, for their consistently conscious lyricism and smart, often confrontational politics.  As much as their songs from the late 70s and 80s are the ones they made their mark with, their recent material has been just as good, particularly their recent album On the Rock, from which they did several numbers. They opened with Strength of My Life, title track to their new album, followed by the understated, politically charged Vulture. We also got to hear the youthman anthem Rudeboy Shuffling, the biting, catchy title track from On the Rock and the highlight of the night, a driven, powerful Jailhouse Rocking complete with incisive, chromatic minor-key guitar solo. The encore began with a brief version of their first big hit, the ecumenical togetherness anthem The Same Song, into some other tunes, finishing with a surprisingly blithe version of New Wave. Despite their crutches, nobody sat down, in fact one of their singers doing the splits Chuck Berry style and popping up with unexpected agility for a polio survivor.

August 22, 2010 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, reggae music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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