Jimmy Cliff ADD

Review: Jimmy Cliff in London, UK @ IndigO2 5/18/2012

05/21/2012 by Angus Taylor

Review: Jimmy Cliff in London, UK @ IndigO2 5/18/2012

Taking the spotlight for his encore, singer, actor and hall of famer Jimmy Cliff, OM, invoked The Harder They Come movie - mimicking the scene where he slashes the face of the preacher's henchman. It was a violent coda to a steadily uplifting show at Greenwich's venue-within-a-venue Indigo2 (rap stars Jay Z and Kanye West  were in the main o2 arena) but the audience, euphoric from seeing the legend return - didn't mind.

Jimmy was back (at the diametrically opposite end of London from where he lived in the 1960s) to promote his forthcoming album Rebirth produced by Rancid's Tim Armstrong, with whom he cut last year's well received Sacred Fire taster EP. Joined by some of the project's musicians (Scott Abels, drums, Dan Boer, keyboards) he sounded a little rusty when opening with You Can Get It If You Really Want. However, he and the band soon eased into a vibe with the dancehall niceness of 1982's Rub A Dub partner - keeping an upward trajectory from there on in.

He paid tribute to the music of Independence with Miss Jamaica, made lion noises before King of Kings, and strapped on a guitar strung lefty like his friend Jimi Hendrix for I Can See Clearly Now. There was also a reminder of his holistic views on faith and nationality with the changing of the lyrics of Vietnam to "Afghanistan" and a sit down Nyabhingi session for Bongo Man - featuring a rich resonant bass sound from drummer Abels.

Cliff is a gracefully economical mover on stage - and his voice, whilst shaky at first, maintained its emotional pull. But to assess veteran performances in this trainspotterish fashion ignores that the privilege most punters feel at simply being in their presence. And whereas fellow protest-songsmith-turned-spiritual-seeker Bob Dylan gets a free pass to mangle his own songs into oblivion, Jimmy is clearly still proud of his work, and loves presenting it to his fans. The joyous reaction to the aforementioned nightcap of THTC, EP track Ruby Soho (a Rancid cover reworked in the style of Jimmy's old producer Leslie Kong) and Wonderful World Beautiful People showed they felt the same way.

Support came from the Birmingham's capable retroists 1 EYE. Whether doing over classic rhythms like 007 (Mr Bailiff) or co-opting the bassline to Augustus Pablo's Java for Worries & Trouble, they seemed most comfortable in the past, but were as musically tight as Cliff's own players.

More crucial in the build-up, however, was the (presumably official) announcement by selectors Vibes FM's Robert Allen and Choice FM's Daddy Ernie of the line-up to the much rumoured Respect Jamaica shows at the venue in late July and early August. These included John Holt, Freddie McGregor, Tappa Zukie, Morgan Heritage, Horace Andy, Damian Marley, Cliff's pal Derrick Morgan and Jimmy himself.

watch the songs Vietnam (Afghanistan) and Wild World from the show: