erasing clouds

Live Review: Jimmy Cliff/Siobhan Parr @ the Carling Academy, Glasgow, Scotland, 07/07/04

by anna battista

Quite a few people in the audience are wondering how London based singer Siobhan Parr (better known for her connections with Alabama 3) fits on tonight’s bill with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, and while some of us are speculating about secret deals between record labels and local venues, rumours circulate about Cliff and Parr meeting a while back in Edinburgh and getting along so well that Cliff asked Siobhan to open for him. She’s technically rather good, but her acoustic folk doesn’t really seem to appeal too much to tonight’s audience’s tastes. People are here to see the king of reggae, and fans are growing so impatient that when Cliff’s band wanders on the stage to briefly sound check some of the instruments, a few members of the audience ferociously clap thinking the gig is finally starting.

After waiting for a little while, Cliff’s backing band eventually gets on stage and a massive roar shakes the Carling Academy. They start playing an instrumental and finally Jimmy Cliff arrives. The band plays the initial notes of “Reggae Night” and, instantly, the audience becomes a sea of people moving in unison.

The first thing that comes to mind two seconds after the gig has started is that Cliff is by now in his late fifties, yet his voice is crystal-clear, his dance technique absolutely amazing and his energy incredible. The man in front of us is that same Cliff who, at the tender age of 14, walked into a Kingston ice-cream-parlour-cum-record-shop and sang an a cappella song he had written called "Dearest Beverly" impressing the record producer and owner of the shop Leslie Kong, who subsequently paid for him to record the track and his first hit “Hurricane Hattie".

Time passed by and Cliff released more than 20 albums and hundreds of hits, starred in the 1973 cult classic The Harder They Come, directed by Perry Henzell, in the role of Ivan O. Martin and was awarded last year the Order Of Merit Award for his work in music and film, the highest recognised honour in Jamaica.

Tonight, helped by his impeccable backing band (consisting of ten very talented elements, all sporting red t-shirts like Cliff), he goes through his repertoire of reggae anthems including “The Harder They Come” and “Many Rivers To Cross”. The gig also features Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”, “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”, dedicated to the marvellous audience of Glasgow (“Tonight, you’re the best,” Jimmy tells us) and “Save Planet Earth”, a passionate song about our endangered planet (remember that Cliff was invited to the 1991 Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro as spiritual advisor). More classic hits follow rolled up with more recent material, a combination of reggae, funk, pop, hip hop and soul. During the gig, Cliff also speaks against the war in Iraq, his songs turning into universal messages of peace and love. The highlight of the night is “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, originally written and produced for Desmond Dekker, which simply sends the crowd into a frenzy.

With this gig, during which Cliff not only sings, but also plays the guitar and percussions, he reconfirms himself as the unrivalled ambassador and king of reggae. There surely isn’t anybody out there like him.

Issue 25, July 2004

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