Reggae can lend itself to many things. As we have seen in the past, Dread Zeppelin has taken on Elvis and Led Zeppelin and blended it with the music from sun drenched Jamaica to some success and laughter. Many other bands dabble in the genre from time to time within their rock and roll lifetimes. The Easy Star All-Stars have taken it to the level of a very good cover band. Not a cover band doing the music as the original artists imagined it, but restyling it to reggae as they have over a few releases. It is a catchy idea and one that can probably stand the test of time as each new generation finds an album that will hit their soul once again, but this time in a reggae fashion.
The All-Stars came to Australia and for the first time on our shores it was promised we would get the full treatment, Dub Side Of The Moon, in its entirety. This summer evening at The Factory in Marrickville was warm and the slight breeze seemed to carry a slight sweet smoky smell that tickled the nose hairs. My nose went up like a high fly at the cricket checking out the aroma that pervaded. Along with this perfume, the crowd was a potpourri of reggae fans; old and young hippies out to shake a bit of the Christmas pudding off; and people who just can’t get enough of The Dark Side Of The Moon. “Is that Syd over there?” someone whispered in my ear. Before I could turn and look, I was accosted by a dancing taco moving to the ska of The Kamikaze Thundercats. The music abruptly ended, as charming as it was, and I brushed the cheddar and salsa off my shirt to prepare myself for some reggae-moon after a short set by the support.
Reggae does lend itself to many things as I previously stated. Most of all it always adheres itself to a roomful of dancing bodies and this night was to be no exception. Kicking off with some new songs from their fairly average original album (released in 2011) First Light, it was not long before we were launched into Floyd territory by the All-Stars. The music was fairly consistent throughout the reimaging of this classic rock record although it did have moments where it became a bit muddy. I found that the commencement of some tracks and the segueing from one track to the other was a tad hap hazard. This is nit picking as what was coming from The Factory stage sounded immensely listenable and danceable as sweat trickled off many of the people beside me. The MC on stage was doing his jump kicks and exercises as the music moved and I could see that he was totally multi-tasking his art and his fitness.
“Speak To Me/Breathe”,” Great Gig In The Sky”, “Any Colour You Like” and “Brain Damage” all worked very well and were well received. These are songs just about anyone in the audience knew from Floyd and being done with the Rasta beat just turned them into a party. Pink Floyd never sounded so happy and light….ever! The great gig in Marrickville was happening and there was that aroma again, is that special incense?
After a short break for some applause The All Stars did some of their Radiohead covers (Radiodread to you!) which were okay but not as happening as Floyd. They also covered some Beatles (“With A Little Help From My Friends”) which gave the dancers a chance to sing for a bit. After a short break they came back with arguably Marley’s best song, “Redemption Song”, which found everyone still in fine voice and with that illegal smile abounding.
This reggae/rock collective is an enjoyable night out if you are in the mood for reggae, familiar songs, and a bit of fun. I do think that after seeing them once, and the mix of rock and reggae, that most people who truly love the original reggae bands and the classic rock music will choose to see one or the other over The Easy Star All Stars down the track. But word has it they are reimagining another classic record and who knows if it will be Stevie Wonder, Coldplay or The New York Dolls, and no matter what it is it will be fun and quirky and reggae outside the normal form. And besides, on a summer night, with no other live music in sight, this music with the Rastafarian touch will make you smile and skank.
– Paul Busch