erasing clouds

Live Review: The Skatalites @ The Carling Academy, 29th November 2003, Glasgow, Scotland

by anna battista

It's hard to pretend you're in Jamaica if outside it's violently raining, cold and well, let's face it, weather is generally miserable. Yet, inside the Carling Academy, The Skatalites are trying hard to transport us all with their rhythms and legendary tracks to Jamaica.

The Skatalites officially formed in the '60s and since then went through quite a few line-up changes, but they are in splendid form tonight. The musicians playing tonight are a latest incarnation of the original Skatalites: there are only three members who were part of the original line-up, Lloyd Brevett on double bass, Lloyd Knibb on drums and Lester 'Ska' Sterling on alto sax. Other members on the stage tonight are Devon James on guitar, Ken Stewart on keyboards, Cedric 'Im' Brooks on tenor sax, Kevin Batchelor on trumpet and Vin Gordon on trombone.

The gig starts right after Lloyd Brevett, wrapped up in rasta colours and grey dreadlocks flying around, pronounces the magical word, "Freedom", perhaps a memento to the people gathered at the Academy that The Skatalites' sound was also the sound of a free and independent Jamaica. Lloyd touches a couple of chords, the rest of the band joins in, and, instantly, the whole venue is dancing to superb ska. The hits follow one another, only interrupted by Lloyd Brevett shouting "ska-ska-ska-ska-ska" in-between the songs.

The set features classics such as "Freedom Sounds", "The Guns Of Navarone", "El Pussy Cat Ska" and "James Bond", a live remix of the main theme for the James Bond soundtrack with a nod to jazz classics. New vocalist Kim Miller joins the rest of the band for a few numbers, "Sugar Sugar", "Nice Time" and the Phillis Dillon's classic "Don't Stay Away". Kim dedicates the gig to her daughter and to Ken Stewart, manager and keyboard player, 'cos it's their birthday tonight. The gig ends with "Celebration Time", with Cedric dancing all over the stage, while Lloyd Brevett's eyes seemed to be lost in the ecstasy of the notes coming out of his double bass (though we like to think it's simply the ecstasy of ganja).

This night of skavaganza has got only one major flaw: it ended up too soon. With The Skatalites' infectious music, the audience, among them people of all ages, from younger fans to older aficionados and ska connoisseurs, could have gone on dancing all night long. At least for a while, being in Glasgow felt like being in Jamaica. Bless The Skatalites then.

Issue 18, December 2003

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