Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Michael Rose and the Ras-Ites

Last Friday night, as part of the Vibraphonic Festival, I saw Michael Rose (who used to be one of the voices of Black Uhuru) at The Phoenix, backed up by the mighty Ras-Ites. They played their own full length set first, complete with encores. Extremely professional in every detail, but not without heart. There were a few classic covers - they started off with the Nyabinghi chant "New Name, Precious Name", a kind of Rasta prayer to kick things off, and did an excellent version of the Natural-Ites' "Picture on the Wall" - but some of their own material bordered on the slightly cheesy commercial side of reggae (for my taste). Couldn't fault their musicianship though - incredibly versatile, like a lesson in post-ska Jamaican musical history. They did some dubby "steppers" style material towards the end of the set that was magnificent and powerful.

After a break the Ras-Ites came back as Michael Rose's band. He's still got a beautiful voice, and his solo material isn't bad at all (the lyrical content is a bit "Rasta-by-numbers", but he's hardly alone in receiving that criticism). The Uhuru numbers that were played lifted the crowd noticeably. There's was a bit too much of the "Do you want more?" business (when it was obvious that the incredibly apprectiative audience did want more), and the unnecessary shades felt a bit like a "mask of cool", but I shouldn't be too critical. He and the band worked perfectly together (unlike the Roots Radics backing Israel Vibration, or The Robotiks backing Augustus Pablo, neither of which worked half as well) - they were interacting with great sensitivity to the extent that it felt like we were witnessing some kind of shamanic ceremony at certain moments. Exeter's needed a decent live reggae event like this for a while, and it definitely liked what it got.

DJ DerekThe Ras-ItesMichael Rose
DJ Derek, the Ras-Ites, Michael Rose

The evening started out with the legendary (and utterly unique) DJ Derek from St. Pauls, Bristol. He's a sixty year old white bloke in a cardigan, apparently a former accountant who definitely knows his reggae and knows how to rock a party. He's from the Jah Shaka "one record at a time" school of DJ'ing - no fancy mixing, just a solid selection.


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