Review & Photos: Tarrus Riley & Blak Soil Band in Hamburg, Germany 1/10/2014
10/06/2014 by Gardy Stein
"Music is what feelings sound like!"
With these six simple words, Tarrus Riley explained in a nutshell why music is essential to our lives. It's so true! Thinking back to the wide variety of music sounded at their show, the artists shared true emotions with us: joy, anger, disappointment, happiness, melancholy, confidence and, most of all, love. And now, after an evening full of this most noble feeling, I, along with countless others for sure, got a love situation.
It felt a bit like a homecoming when we arrived in front of the Fabrik around half past 8 last Wednesday. After spending the next thirty minutes greeting friends and fambily, we entered the location, being at once transported to the 18th of June last year. As back then, Crucial Vibes played a wonderful warm-up. As back then, Chris Toppa acted as an opener with the slight difference that he played twice as long this time and that, by now, he has an album out entitled Connected. As back then, the Blak Soil Band entered stage after Chris left, joined by Dean Fraser who beamed at the crowd in anticipation of the coming. The first perceivable difference was the amount of people present. More than 600 eager listeners (young and old, with a slight dominance of female fans) had assembled to welcome Mr. Singy Singy. A fresh face was the well-established producer, engineer and manager Shane Brown who could be seen at the controls, making some last adjustments to the sound-set. Even though he is working with Team Tarrus for a while now, he wasn't on tour last time and is now supporting the efficient and long-serving News in his tasks as tour-manager.
With an instrumental intro (different from last year!), Dean claimed the first round of applause, the other musicians warming up to the evening one by one with a solo. Around 10pm, another novelty entered stage: Alaine! In a stunning dress she flashed her warm smile at everyone before she lifted her crystal voice to sing Rise In Love. A nice new experience was the combination of a female front singer and male background singers (Courick Clarke, Andrew Marsh and Christopher Smith); in so many cases it's just the other way round! As her second song suggests, it's worth to dig Deeper into the life and lyrics of this talented power-woman, because she really has amazing stories to tell. Suffice it here to say that she gave up a promising banking career for the sake of music – lucky us she did!
With the new album Ten Of Hearts (to be released in 2015), we can look forward to wonderful songs like Better Than This, which she performed right after Without You. "I want you to move to this beautiful Dancehall beat!" was her plea, a request the audience willingly granted. At the end of the song she performed an amazing duet with Dean Fraser's saxophone, and you would think it really couldn't get much better than this… but it did! While she had won me over the moment she took off her heels after song number 2 (I do love me some real people!), the joyful melody of Bye Bye Bye caught even those who until then had not (been) moved at all. With a "Goodbye Hamburg!" she seemingly left, only to reappear behind Christopher's keyboard to accompany herself on No Ordinary Love. One of her older pieces, it wasn't surprising to see many fans sing along with her, and she was escorted off stage by a well-deserved, thunderous applause.
Dean Fraser then stepped up to the microphone to announce what we were all waiting for. He talked about the Challenges that had been overcome, about Parables that were delivered and proved Contagious, about a reflective Mecoustic that gave way to a new situation – a Love Situation! With that, Tarrus Riley entered stage, heading straight for the crowd to reach for the outstretched hands to the sounds of Getty Getty No Wantee. Throughout the show, he kept up this close contact with the audience, shaking hands over and over to the delight of the fans (many of whom he further delighted with an autograph at the merch-stand after the concert), as well as the constant interaction with the band members. Together they took us on a breathtaking joyride through Human Nature, Love Contagious, Start A New and Superman before coming to a short halt during which the latter greeted the audience "in the name of Jah Almighty".
While many people were singing along to Never Leave I, it was nothing compared to what happened when Wildfire started to spread. Amplified six hundredfold, an almost instant pull up was generated, satisfying the obvious need of vibeful music and even straying into J Boog's Let's Do It Again on the same riddim. With the words "What goes around comes around!" Tarrus introduced Karma, the timeless beauty of which led to the equally sweet Beware on the Full Up riddim. Having thus slowed down the pace a bit, Lion Paw descended on us like a shied against "all the evils that mean me harm", and again the singer was accompanied by hundreds of voices.
After a short excursion into a drum-heavy Shaka Zulu, I almost felt as if the show was over because there had been so many hits already. Fortunately, the best was yet to come: "I live in the real world," the singer announced, "sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry, sometimes I dance. Music is what feelings sound like, and I want to introduce you to a special feeling. We got a love situation!". What followed was another 45 minutes of formidable outtakes from the new album (since they are not on the set-list, I have to rely on my memory: Dem A Watch, 1-2-3 I Love You, Burning Desire and Thank You were certainly amongst them), jocular exchanges with his band members and explosions on the massive, for example with his brand new tune Greatest Creation. Zapping through the styles, the band delivered My Day first in a HipHop, then in a Salsa beat, followed by a lengthy guitar solo by Mitchum; the subsequent Sorry was started with a short anecdote of how Tarrus wanted to talk to a French girl in Paris once, but all he could say was "Ça va?".
Asking us if we are ready to go home (which of course was negated), Mr. Riley told everyone he will Stay With You before he called keyboarder Chris to the front for the traditional Buju Skit. He sported a Love Situation T-Shirt, and although Tarrus said it was the coolest one in the building, I'm not convinced. Bass player Glen Browne carried a huge image of Tarrus, for example, while keyboarder Stringy had one with Dean Fraser on it. Drummer Oral Brown had taken off his shirt before I could take a good look at it, and the singer himself was wearing the portrait of a young Somalian Woman which for him symbolizes Mama Africa and women's strength, as he revealed later on.
Energies were kept high with She's Royal, Good Girl Gone Bad and We Run It, and even Dean was picking up the mic to deliver a verse! The later it got, the more people were dancing, until tension reached another climax during Gimme Likkle One Drop (which had to be pulled up, too). After what felt like a 3-hour-show, Tarrus and the Blak Soil Band finally said their Goodbyes to honest, deafening long applause that didn't stop until they came back for a final 1, 2, Order. Where our happiness lies? Right there, right then – what an exciting night that was!
It seems an inevitable side effect of a tour called Love Situation to leave the location smiling, elated and happy. Make sure you cherish that glow and, whenever you feel like, move your feet and sing out loud any melody that comes to your mind. Fill your world with audible emotions!!!