Exeter's Lemon Grove isn't very full tonight, but with the number of events on throughout the city to celebrate Halloween, I suppose this is no surprise. It must be a bit of a let down for the support act, man mountain, Ed Rome who takes to the stage with his four band mates Jim (Drums), Bella (Saxophones), Chris D. (Bass), and Jamie (Keyboards).
Tonight he's showcasing tracks from the debut album 'A Life In Minutes' which is big step, ska, and reggae infused with a smattering of clever wry lyrics. 'Thatcher's Children' is the stand out of the set for me, and if Ed is to be believed most of the songs appear to be germinated during a bit of sexual angst, although I'm not unconvinced he was just airing this sexual frustration because hardly anyone was about.
Bella's saxophone is terrific, and it's all upbeat happy big beats that to a fuller room would get everyone skankin'. I'd seen Ed before in his The Big mode at The Endorse-It festival and as Ed Rome this summer and talking to him in the crowd he tells me it's pretty much the same band, with only one change in personnel. They sound more reggae flavoured than I remember them, although he tells me it's the same set.
Easy Star All Stars are tonight's headliners and the crowds a little busier, but it's by no means packed, everyone moves closer as the six piece kick off with an opening jam 'Blast Off' and as the applause dies, the band get confused about if they have played Exeter before, and say they are surprised we aren't in costumes for Halloween. After a bit more banter I begin to wonder if they actually had costumes, but ditched them when they saw the crowd weren't participating.
'Air Bag', and 'Crawling Up The Walls' with Tamar-kali on fantastic vocals are the perfect openers, with that big reggae overhaul to the Radiohead originals which are from the band's cover album released in 2006. 'Radiodread' and 2003's re-working of the Pink Floyd classic 'Dub Side Of The Moon' are the primary source of music tonight.
The sound of a bubbling bong and some dub beats signals the start of 'Breathe' and everyone's singing along, 'Money' sees the band's rapper Menny More join them on stage and he gets the crowd bouncing. The band show their musical expertise with a fantastic guitar solo mid way through.
'Let Down' is boosted by Bella from Ed Rome, adding another sax to Jenny Hill on the saxophone,and trombone horn section. They set up a smokin' skankin' rhythm with more rapping thrown into the heady mix.
A "musical spliff" is offered to the crowd and Ras Iray on bass and Ive-09 on drums set up an amazing huge reggae wave that crashes from the speakers to herald new track 'The Finest' a nod to classic old school reggae, they do it well, blimey these guys are good musicians. This is one of only a couple of their own tracks aired tonight.
Easy Star All Stars do create a quandary, with their covers, well complete re-workings, of such big tunes, and their mastery of their instruments, I don't know if I want to hear more of their own material or just the ones they replicate in their own style. I think it's the covers of songs I know so well that win tonight.
Tonight's guitarist (I didn't recognise him) plays open ended wah-wah notes which become harmonics in 'Lucky' with singer Tamar-kali really upping the vocal to match the harmony, awesome.
Jenny swaps sax for flute and it's the intro to a ska heavy voyage through Pink Floyd's 'Time' and the set closes with 'Electioneering' and quite possibly the best drum solo I've seen since Neil Peart with Ive-09 drawing huge applause on the final beat.
The band return from their breather, telling us they'd like to give us something, and a jam follows with the lyrics appearing to be "We're rushing on the Exeter Scene/Ecstasy", at this point three dancin' monkeys get up on stage from the crowd, and it's all a bit embarrassing as the lads clearly can't dance.
The lunatics are cleared off stage, in time for 'Brain Damage', and the show closer 'Kharma Police' in a dub stylee and a guitar solo to die for.
Great reggae covers of classic songs, by great musicians who let their instruments do the talking, dub, roots, and still not one clue of what their next album of covers will be. Whatever it is, I can't wait to find out!
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article by: Scott Williams
photos by: Karen Williams
| published: 05/11/2008 09:06|