Keep It Real Jam 2012 ADD

06/08 - 06/09 2012

Olympics Fiasco: Mad Professor & The Upsetters in London, UK 7/25/2012

07/26/2012 by David Katz

Olympics Fiasco: Mad Professor & The Upsetters in London, UK 7/25/2012

Olympics Fiasco: Mad Professor & The Upsetters
Live at the Indigo2, London, 25 July 2012


As all readers must surely know by now, the 50th Anniversary of Jamaican Independence has coincided with the 2012 Olympics. Here in London, the atmosphere has turned very festive, with torch relays passing through the metropolis’ varied communities, and celebratory dances being held in Jamaican neighbourhoods. The most ambitious set of live events to simultaneously celebrate the two landmarks was launched last night at the Inidigo2, the smaller of the live concert venues created at the former Millennium Dome, situated on what had once been contaminated waste-ground in a dead industrial zone—north of Greenwich, but not near anything else of consequence. The ‘Respect Jamaica 50th’ festival, being held in the venue, has all kinds of amazing line-ups during the next couple of weeks, making it all the more pitiful that the opening night devolved into a near-total fiasco, being not at all as advertised.

Early on, the opening night was billed as pairing walking performance art-piece Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry with his falsetto prodigy, Junior Murvin, whose epic Police And Thieves Perry produced some 35+ years ago, with Perry’s sometime mixing partner, Mad Professor, providing support. However, Murvin was unable to participate in the event for personal reasons, and was thus removed from the line-up some time ago, replaced instead by a rising bobo singer, Ras Lawi. I can’t really tell you much about Lawi, because although I heard a few bars of his set from outside the venue, getting inside took a bit of extra time, because the main box office was shut.

Once inside the venue, which was nowhere near its capacity, co-host Rudy Ranks spun some dub plate exclusives, which sounded nice and crisp through the impressive house PA. Then, Mad Professor came onstage with some tweaking headgear, to kick off a lengthy live dub show, with toasters Dego Ranks and KarMelody livening things up: opening track ‘Welcome To O2’ mutated Jr Gong’s ‘Jamrock’ in Ariwa fashion, with the ‘warbler’ effect and stereo mixing hitting straight to the head. Sandra Cross’ ‘I Can’t Let You Go’ became a platform for KarMelody, before Dego took over John McLean’s ‘Runaround Girl’. The fearsome ‘Kunta Kinte’ rhythm sounded fantastic with lots of stereophonic mixing, and then came a real pleasant surprise: a new female Ariwa artist, introduced as ‘Red Head’, entered to deliver some hard-hitting dub poetry on the same rhythm, a wicked chant, ‘I Plant I Roots’. After her exit, Chukki Starr’s ‘Almighty One’ burst out of the speakers, and segued into a jungle remix, before some other Ariwa material was displayed, including a great new number featuring someone called Lady Maga, I believe –another newbie to watch out for in the Ariwa stable. After a dub heavy cut of ‘Prophecy’, Red Head was back with ‘I Am What I Am’, another fearsome piece of dub poetry. She cuts quite a presence on stage so do watch out for her—plenty of potential in this new artist. But following her exit, things started to slide downhill…after a tedious bit of audience participation, with bad sex jokes live on the mic, Dawn Penn’s ‘No No No’ was followed by Marcia Aitken’s ‘I’m Still With You’…surely things were being strung out unduly long? Why? And where was Mr Perry?

After Prof’s exit and the on-stage band change, all was revealed: keyboardist Spider explained that Perry’s flight was delayed, and ultimately cancelled. Thus, anyone wanting a refund could get one at their point of ticket purchase, but meanwhile, on with the show: the Lee Perry live show, minus Lee Perry, presented by his latest set of UK-based Upsetters, including Spider, guitarist Derek Johnson, bassist Kirk Service, and drummer Dreadie D. Opening with Bob Marley’s ‘Heathen,’ Johnson’s expressive guitar was clearly in the lead; ‘Zion’s Blood’ sounded fit musically, especially with Service’s meaty bass, but Spider was on the mic longer than necessary. Marley’s ‘One Drop’ felt a bit flat without Perry’s weirdness, and ‘Crazy Baldhead’ was a bit pedestrian, but Spider kept things topical by changing ‘Secret Laboratory’ into a salute to the JA 50th, while Dreadie D propelled the rhythmn along The band sounded quite tight on ‘Bucky Skank’, which they pattern after ‘Poppa Was A Rolling Stone,’ but Perry was still conspicuous by his absence; the surprise of the evening was the band’s rendition of the 1968 Monty Morris track ‘Say What You’re Saying,’ which Perry had produced with Clancy Eccles, but the by the closer, Marley’s ‘Exodus’, the atmosphere was flat. So although many of the other events are bound to impress, this one definitely began not with a bang, but a whimper.