Review & Photos: Burning Spear, Johnny Clarke & Horace Andy in London, UK @ O2 Academy Brixton 2022
08/17/2022 by Shrik Kotecha
Burning Spear, Johnny Clarke & Horace Andy - Sunday 14th August 2022 @ O2 Academy Brixton
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Returning after a 20 year absence to the UK, the stage had been set for a roots music extravaganza on Sunday 14th August at the iconic O2 Academy Brixton, where Burning Spear was headlining two concerts alongside Horace Andy and Johnny Clarke hot on the heels of his ‘Fan Appreciation’ tour in the US.
Late in October 2021, elder statesman Winston Rodney announced that he will be doing 10 shows in 10 countries in 2022, causing a frenzy of excitement and anticipation about where those 10 shows will be amongst his worldwide fans. Needless to say, the tour has been extended to 23 dates with the final show for 2022 scheduled to take place at sea, as part of the Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise.
The UK was blessed with two dates in Birmingham and London from Burning Spear, who has not toured since 2016. He reminded his fans that he is still very much active with the release of a brand new single ‘Mommy’ late in 2021- his first release in over a decade, from the new album titled No Destroyer, yet to be released.
The O2 Academy Brixton was the undisputed venue to host the London date, having been home to hundreds of artists and bands over the years (starting out with Eek-A-Mouse back in 1983). The internationally renowned, Grade II listed, award-winning concert venue styling is rich in its Art Deco interior and iconic stage design based on Venice’s Rialto bridge.
On our arrival into Brixton, the area was buzzing for a Sunday evening, as thousands of fans made the short walk from the train station to the venue where the queue was halfway round the block. The streets were filled with arts and crafts and food vendors making a bustling trade in the soaring heat.
We arrived just after 7pm as Wassifa Showcase were warming up the crowd with roots anthems from the likes of The Twinkle Brothers, Pablo Gad and Errol Dunkley. Compere Daddy Ernie welcomed the 5000 strong crowd for a ‘history night’ in London and introduced support act Vincent Nap for a short set which was well received.
Showtime was 7.40pm as the burly Johnny Clarke made a bold entrance onto the stage as the Dub Asante Band feat. Matic Horns blasted out the rhythm section of Death In The Arena complete with horns section as Johnny Clarke strode across the stage energetically singing out ‘I am the king in the arena’. Dressed in a cream suit, a matching red gold and green tam hat and handkerchief and Africa pendant, he took us down memory lane singing hit after hit- None Shall Escape The Judgement, Crazy Baldheads, Roots Natty Roots (which brought the first forward of the night), African Roots and many more. One of his biggest hits Every Knee Shall Bow undoubtedly sent the crowd into a rapturous applause.
The hits flowed seamlessly as he went into Jah Shaka soundsystem favourite Babylon before returning for an encore for Move Out Of Babylon. The crowd could definitely feel a real sense of oneness as Daddy Ernie hugged Johnny Clarke at the end of his performance.
Next up was Horace Andy who coolly skanked onto the stage singing Studio 1 favourite Fever to loud cheers. His distinctive vocals and ability to command the crowd haven’t waned at all despite being in the music industry for over five decades. There was real synergy between Andy and his Dub Asante Band with some clever interplay between Matic Horns on trombone. Money Money was dedicated to all the conscious people in the house, as Andy spoke of “burning a fire pon the House of Parliament” which instantly had to be wheeled back as the crowd wanted more. By the end of the song, Horace sang with more urgency, bouncing up and down as he paced across the stage in his distinctive black, red, gold and green suit emblazoned with maps of Africa and red shoes.
Two lovers rock favourites Natty Dread A Whe She Want and Rock A Bye Baby were well received as were See A Mans Face, Every Tongue Shall Tell and of course one of Andy's most enduring songs Skylarking. Both Andy and Clarke had rocked the crowd with just a handful of their respective vast catalogues and the stage was set for Burning Spear and the Burning Band. Wassifa Showcase duly entertained the crowds with reggae gems from The Itals, Mighty Diamonds and Creole as the stage was reshuffled for the man himself, Winston Rodney to take the stage.
At precisely 9.30pm, the eight piece Burning Band were ready, and the compere gave a very short introduction to the masses of fans patiently awaiting their first glimpse of Burning Spear after more than two decades “let me introduce you to the living legend, Mr Burning Spear”. A euphoric crowd reciprocated with deafening cheers as living musical icon, Winston Rodney casually walked onto the centre of the stage. Maintaining a solemn face throughout, he paused, looking down to the ground, almost in a meditative pose before turning, first to the left and then to the right before glancing up at the crowds in the upper balcony. “I and I, the son of the Most High God Jah Rastafari, our hearts shall correspond and beat with one harmony, sounds from the Burning Spear” before going into the opening chant of Door Peep accompanied by Clyde Cummings on saxophone as the crowd sang along passionately. The opening song was just short of nine minutes, with Spear energetically beating the red conga drums as the Burning Band played frantically.
We Been There and The Youth followed on this historical night that will surely go down in London’s reggae history as a “where were you when” moment. At 77 years of age, Spear certainly didn’t show his age with his energetic moves on stage. Dressed very casually in blue denim shorts, a black ‘Burning Spear’ t-shirt, a tweed waistcoat and black tam hat, he bounced up and down on the stage, running up and down on the spot. Intermittently, lead guitarist, Cecil Ordonez would step forwards waving his hands, and passionately clap, urging the crowd to do the same.
The hits continued, Man In The Hills, Jah No Dead, Rocking Time and Nyah Keith but the biggest forward for the night was reserved for the opening horns section of Marcus Garvey. A deafening roar that resonated all the way through the Academy as the swarms of mobile phones lit up the venue, each patron eager to capture ‘that’ moment as a keepsake for themselves. The atmosphere was truly electric, and the sweltering temperatures London was experiencing through the current heatwave just notched up a few degrees as the crowds sweltered in the physical and musical heat. Spear of course has largely devoted his music to the teaching of Marcus Garvey and promoting messages of peace and love to all.
“Talk to me people, talk to me” were the words Spear repeatedly called out to his fans. More roots classics followed including Jah Is My Driver, Red, Gold and Green and Slavery Days as David Reichley’s bass continued to resonate all around. This was intensified each time Spear walked over to the drums, with some hard beating, mesmerising the crowd in extended renditions of his classical works from the 70’s. Micah Robinson (trombone), James K Smith (trumpet) and Clyde Cummings (saxophone) totally nailed the horns section throughout the night matching Spear’s voice in unison.
The two-hour set concluded on a high with African Postman with the final words from Spear to his ardent fans “Take Care”.
It was a truly majestic night that will remain in the hearts of the crowd for years to come. Many patrons had travelled from overseas to see Burning Spear and he certainly delivered on this monumental night.
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