Horace Andy, The Skipyard Rockers, Rebel Lion at Norwich Arts Centre, 18 April 2014. Review and photos.
A massive night of top reggae at the NAC once again, with the legendary Horace Andy headlining. Support was from Norwich’s Skipyard Rockers and Rebel Lion provided the deep reggae grooves between acts.
As far as I am aware, Skipyard Rockers don’t appear to play live too often but whenever I have seen them they have been brilliant. Tonight especially so, on a larger stage and with the excellent Arts Centre sound. Featuring Tony Roots this evening on vocals they pack a real heavyweight sound of reggae and dub consciousness, with excellent keys, bass, guitar, percussion and a very fine horn section, their sound is as tight as it comes. I cannot understand how they don’t have a higher profile, there can’t be too many British reggae acts doing this sort of thing any better. Superb entertainment and they quickly filled up the room and got the whole place skanking.
‘Legend’ is a word oft-used but in the case of Horace Andy it is absolutely justified. From his early days at Studio One with Coxsone Dodd to the rastafarian reggae of the 1970s onwards and of course his appearances and collaborations with the likes of Easy Star All Stars and, most notably, Massive Attack. Now 63 he seems as sprightly as ever and of course his truly unique voice as rich as ever too. Absolutely no-one else sounds like Horace Andy.
Speaking to him earlier he seemed concerned that people actually listened to the message of the music and the lyrics, he is a passionate Rastafarian and cares deeply that people take a positive message from his work. Describing it he prefers to avoid calling it ‘religion’ describing his beliefs instead as Consciousness. Whilst people may go to church and then ignore the messages he wonders if that happens with concerts. He sees the wars and the conflicts, and closer to home the swearing and the stealing and questions if people always take on board the peaceful message of conscious reggae music.
He treated Norwich to just about everything we could hope to hear, from his early solo work (Skylarking) his songs with Massive Attack (Man Next Door, Spying Glass) and songs from all eras of his recordings but with that irresistible beat all the way through. He too has a fine band with stunning brass, bass, drums, guitar and keys. Most songs had a ‘rewind’ back to the start with great enthusiasm.
The crowd adored it and had a great time. One or two over enthusiastic people near the front were trying a little too hard to be noticed and ‘dancing’ quite inappropriately knocking into people but they could not overshadow a brilliant performance and vibe in the room. At one point Horace spotted our very own Georgia from the lovely Piratones in the audience and held her hand for a while as he sang directly to her. A really beautiful moment.
His enthusiasm and enjoyment really shone through, and he even said it was like playing in Jamaica. High praise indeed.
Many thanks to Horace Andy and his agent Nikki, Skipyard All Stars, Rebel Lion, Lisa Anahata Portal, and Norwich Arts Centre
words and photos by richard shashamane (c) 2014