Live review from Sounds, November 27th, 1982
Gregory Isaacs/Michael Smith Venue
All the signs were there. A ram-jammed polka-dot complexioned audience. . . and gyrating groups of girls. The talk of myriad tongues meshed into a fractured semi-Esperanto. . . and groups of gawping girls. Entry hassles, tempers turning to curses making the night sky blush. . . and gaggles of gallivanting girls.
The lure of Gregory Isaacs could just become an epidemic.
“Do you want the Godfather?” bellowed Bingy Bunny, chicken scratch guitarist Roots Radic style. Sure enough, we did. Then, to squeals of feminine delight, the Lonely Lover finally stepped into the spotlight, stretched an immaculately threaded body, peered out from under the angle poise of a panama, and opened the vocal floodgate drowning the assembled in an ocean of warm emotion.
However, here comes the critical bit. . .
Spies in the women’s toilet reported a lot of hot air being expelled afterwards. No! Not that sort! More like complaints taking the form of “it’s downright disgusting he played such a short set. I went to see George Benson when he was here and he did three encores”.
Too true! Tickets for tonight were the not-to-be-sneered-at sum of five pounds, but that’s neither here nor there. The amount of money involved is irrelevant, it’s a question of principle.
I don’t know how long the Cool Ruler was onstage – I didn’t think I’d need to check, it being the opening night of his tour and presumably raring to go, go, go – but it can’t have been much more than a decidedly uncool 45 minutes.
To add insult to injury, no encore was offered after Gregory exited to the fading wash of Steelie Johnson’s synth on ‘Night Nurse’. The collective look on the face of the audience was one of bewilderment brought on by premature ejaculation. One moment we were cocooned in community singing rocker’s fashion, the next we were trundling out into the cold.
Meanwhile, in the gent’s, grumblings and rumblings were of a different hue. “Chaa! Too much lovers. What ‘appen to the sufferer’s music. . . it was like going to see a rock band play ballads all night. Not enough change of pace.”
With a back catalogue containing some of reggae’s most militant moves, Gregory chose to play safe and shoot arrows at female hearts but leave the cold steel chest of Babylon unscathed. Sure, it was a buzz to experience songs like ‘My Number One’, ‘Tune In’, ‘Stranger In Town’ and other classics of spurned and spermed love, but it would have been even better if he’d tempered them with the righteous fire of ‘Mr Cop’, ‘Black Against Black’ et al.
That said, judging by this outing, Mr Isaacs could be on the verge of a major international breakthrough: An artist to carry roots – as opposed to gimmick reggae – to the masses. The man to let your average punter taste the cream of the crop. Three sold-out-in-advance nights at the Venue may not compare with filling Wembley, but for a reggae artist it’s more than encouraging.
Oh yes! Michael Smith. Unfortunately, due to the queue when I arrived, I only caught the boot end of the dub poet’s set. A charismatic figure in the classic sense – personality, not image – Michael rose magnificently above the anticipatory chat of the audience, barking out lyrics of grave fury to a selection of backing tapes.
“Diamond hard,” was the evaluation of Sounds’ Edwin Pouncey who was in at the beginning.
More forward Gregory, more forward.