Photo by Jack Burt
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Revolution, Fort Lauderdale
There is nothing like being in the presence of a vintage Rasta man, and David Hinds, Steel Pulse's frontman, is an especially potent one. He's been the driving, spliff-cheefing force behind the monster reggae act since it formed in the U.K. 35 years ago. Since then, the band has become globally respected for its politically charged, roots reggae, which earned them a Grammy and a huge following. On Wednesday night, the band brought its dreadlocks and love of Jah to Revolution, and as many ganjafied fans as the club could handle came to marvel.
At 8 p.m., the line for tickets snaked from the box office around into the parking lot, and by ten, when local favorites Fouth Dimension took the stage, the house was full. The crowd response to Jah Steve and the boys was strong, which was great to see. For years, Fourth Dimension has been holding it down in South Florida with various weekly gigs, and the occasional opening slot for big acts that come to town. What's nice about the bigger shows, like Wednesday's gig as opener for Steel Pulse, is that it gives the group an opportunity to focus on original material, rather than the standard Bob Marley covers they need to play at Fat Cats to please the drinking crowd. Wednesday's set featured the 4D classic "Invasion", their ode to herb smoking "Yes", and their 'reggae en espanol' jam "Muertos es Vida". The only weak point in the set was in the acoustic closer, where Steve didn't quite deliver vocally.
After the curtains closed on the opening act, people shifted around in the packed club like a hive of extremely mellow bees in order to hit the bathroom before Steel Pulse. By the time everyone was settled in, the floor was stuffed fuller than the bongs backstage and it was almost as thick around the perimeter on both the upper and lower levels.
When the curtain lifted, Steel Pulse dropped their Rasta anthem "Worth His Weight in Gold (Rally Round)", setting the tone for a performance that would have the packed house grooving and chanting along the whole way through. The band was locked in and joyful. The playing was very tight and their stage presence was undeniably that of an inspired bunch, doing it for something greater than fame or riches; which is both rare in this age and inspiring, and exactly what roots reggae is all about. Hinds was light on his feet as he played and deep in his message as he sang. It's hard to believe, while watching the heavily-dreaded man float onstage, that he is in his mid-50's.
The set featured lots of fan favorites spanning their entire catalogue, and most of the songs were extended into long, steady instrumental jams. Some of the highlights were "Drug Squad", which featured an unidentified guest rapper, the late set sing-a-long "Your House", and the closer "Stepping Out". By the time the band broke into the latter two, the crowd seemed to be so steeped in the smoke and righteous vibe that no one seemed to care that they were pressed up so closely against their neighbors. The people of Revolution became one pulsating soul-creature.
Over the course of the night, there was more than one complaint voiced over the lack of space, but over-all the good nature of the people and the music seemed to triumph over the will to be a bummer. Though it may have been nice to have some extra room, it was cool to see so many people come out to a reggae show given that the genre as a whole gets very little, if any, mainstream airplay. Reggae is important and the love for it seems to be alive and well in South Florida.
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Better Than: Buju Banton's caustic lyrical topics
Personal Bias: When it hit me, I felt no pain
Random Detail: Just after the encore I received this classic text from my ride home: "Youre going to kill me. We just made it home via taxi. Stoney move brodda"
By the Way: Steel Pulse's first new album since 2004's African Holocaust is due out this year.