Report: SOJA in Cologne, Germany 9/28/2014
10/01/2014 by Lena Pletzinger
It is totally amazing watching SOJA touring all across the world for so long now. Every year again and again do they travel from the US-mainland to Hawaii, from South America to Europe and from Asia back to the US… to start the tour all over again. That reaches around 150 shows a year from which many are sold out early. At the meantime, they regularly manage to come up with new albums and a bunch of new songs and collaborations. These guys must just have infinite strength and energy. They truly deserve the biggest respect. Hard work pays off: They headline big festivals, make it to the top ranks of billboard charts and are now one of the US biggest Reggae-Rock bands.
What’s the magic of SOJA that makes so many people devote to their music? They have reached more than 3,6 million likes on facebook, which is an impressive number for a Reggae band. One aspect is definitely the conscious and honest messages they present with their lyrics. The band’s mission is stand up for humanity and to contribute making the world a better place. Their fan-base is faithful, young and crazy about them and wouldn’t ever let them pause.
➜ LIVE VIDEOS: YOUR SONG # TRUE LOVE / RASTA COURAGE
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One year after their last show in Germany, SOJA came back on that late summer Sunday night of September 28th to present the new album Amid The Noise And Haste. It was their 6th time in Cologne, where they rocked the Live Music Hall for the second time. The venue was expected to be full. Indeed, more than a thousand (approx. 1100) people made their way to the venue, traveling from near and far: Many nationalities under one roof: some Spanish, others French and of course a lot of German attended this night.
Whereas the show was opened in 2013 by a Reggae and Dancehall showcase, a German Rock-pop band performed as an opening act this year instead. Some might wonder why would a Reggae show be opened by a rock band, the answer is quit simple: SOJA’s musical style has long since been developed beyond Roots Reggae and Dub, even further on to many other genres. Their art of playing the drums and guitars shows the diversity and their love for rock music that was very present at the show this night. The Reggae aroma was presented nevertheless through the percussions, the trumpet and saxophone.
The band appeared in full 8-man crew on stage and opened the show with the song Mentality, released in the year 2012 on the album Strength to Survive. This song was followed by one of their biggest hits ever: I Don’t Wanna Wait, from the 2009-Born in Babylon album which is always an absolute highlight to watch live. I Don’t Wanna Wait has the power to touch the crowd, spreading showers of joy from the back to the front in the venue, especially when singer Jacob Hemphill sings “It’s one world one life one chance” same time rising his arm and forming his fingers to the peace symbol! The show continued with the brand new single Your Song which features Damian Marley and whose part was perfectly taken over by bassist Bobby Lee. His deep voice and rap skills are always a nice contrast to Jacob’s distinctive high note. One song that also underlines Bobby Lee’s rap talent is Be Aware from the year 2006 that followed on Your Song that night. SOJA presented afterwards Tear It Down, I Believe, Not Done Yet and the single Shadow that features bassist Trevor Young, which are all released in the last two recent LPs. Unexpected was the performance of Prison Blues afterwards, the bonus track of the Strength to Survive album, a song rarely played live!
Later on, the band began speeding up the tempo with their single Sorry that offers much room for instruments’ solos and turned the stage to a full action: drumsticks thrown from member to member, from one side of the stage to the other without falling, the musicians sweating, Dreadlocks swirling, T-shirts getting wet, caps & sun glasses accidently falling down of the musicians’ heads; the band was definitely rocking the stage.
The show was a pure entertainment for both ears AND eyes, so that no one has noticed Jacob leaving stage. SOJA had extra plans for their show in Cologne: As Jacob came back, he announced a special guest for the night: No other than longtime friend and Cologne-based artist Gentleman who was accompanied by his pregnant wife Tamika joined SOJA on stage. They performed Dem Gone on the Dem Gone Riddim with a short switch to Sizzla's Woman I Need You on the same Riddim. His joy being on stage again with SOJA was absolutely notable. They have developed a strong bound to each other since being on tour in 2010 in Europe and in America the year after. They mashed it up again this night.
The songs that followed were Easier, Signature and Driving Faster, from the new album. By the end of the show the band pushed the speed again to a maximum and everyone in the venue who wasn’t fully sweated by then, was wet now. The song You Don’t know Me ended up to bring the Brazilian Carnival to Cologne. The band set up a bunch of Classic Samba instruments on stage showing a different musical variety. Especially the Latin rooted members Rafael Rodriguez and Hellman Escorcia pushed the Latin groove forward. They approved their skills on the Surdo - the bass drum and the heartbeat of Samba music, the Apito-pipe, the Agogo an African bell besides others.
SOJA attracts mostly young people and is capable to present Reggae music to the younger generation. Frontman Jacob Hemphill is mainly the reason why many girls defend their place in the front row, so it was that night. Jacob even made girls cry as he started singing the lines of the song You And Me. But everyone on stage knew how to gain the peoples attention. Bass man Bobby got off stage once to walk through the middle of the crowd, still playing his bass guitar, same as Trevor who surprised with a switched position off the stage and to the other side of the venue from where he performed a great solo showcase to the song Here I Am at the very end of the night. She Still Loves Me was the last tune of the regular show. The band left stage afterword’s, but Jacob and Trevor came back on to perform a special guitar acoustic as the encore, playing True Love and Rasta Courage from the Get Wiser LP. For the very last tune, the full band came back up on stage; the classic guitars were switched into electro guitars and Here I Am was performed in a rock ’n’ roll style.
After the 2-hour show, SOJA left me once again amazed by their performance. After so many years of touring and traveling the world, the band doesn’t seem to be tired at all. They are an excellent live band for sure with a wonderful vibe and talent to fascinate their fans.