Steel Pulse Concert Review

Steel Pulse "True Democracy"

Steel Pulse "True Democracy"

I was back in Santa Cruz, Ca for my sister’s wedding a few weeks ago. It was a week full of celebration, which was the perfect circumstance for Steel Pulse to conveniently stroll through town and rock The Catalyst Nightclub on a Thursday (9/17/2009.) I was able to make time between the ceremony rehearsals and family dinners to attend the show.

This was the third time in my life that I’ve seen Steel Pulse live and all shows thus far have been at The Catalyst right off Pacific Ave. in downtown SC. This, however, was the first at The Catalyst that was able to walk the 21+ balconies at show time. I know Steel Pulse was one of the select, few reggae groups to make it through the ‘80’s unscathed, but I was surprised to see their substantial draw in the older crowd as well as the younger. Both bars and balconies were slammed with all kinds of heads.

From the opening track of ‘Worth its Weight in Gold’, the venue was so stomping and roaring one could hear the echoes of the trembling of the old bowling alley lanes underneath the hall. They seem to always open with this song, but I have to say that every time they do I wish I could be like the Damian Marley flag guy.

Their set was perfect, flawless, impeccable, righteous. It pretty much touched on almost all my personal favorites. ‘Chant a Psalm’, ‘Global Warming’, and the classic ‘Handsworth Revolution’ were three such songs that embody Steel Pulse’s perfect marriage of grooves, choral hooks, and political consciousness that has made them one of the most prolific reggae bands of all time.

They did play several of their newer singles, from albums very well received, including ‘No Weapons’ and ‘Door of No Return’, but the new song that caught me was a tribute to President Barack Obama. When people asked me about the show the next day that was the first thing I recited. The call and response of “Go Barack, Barack/Obama!”

The icing on the cake of the show was some sweet, thick dub. I’ve never heard Steel Pulse jam out songs as long as they did at this show. In the past, they’ve thrown their singles of ‘Rollerskates’ and ‘Stepping Out’ into an unenthusiastic, five-minute medley. This time they gave both those tunes their due respect with full versions early in the set.

The whole band seemed especially stoked that night. The rest of the group rose to David Hines (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) level so all he had to do was hold down the center, vocal mic and rhythm guitar with that signature, broader than broadway smile on his face. Perhaps he was so stoked because the crowed was owned by locals, who, as Rocky says, are “the best crowd ever.” He was sure to mention that ‘fact’ over the speakers as we piled out into the atrium after the encore.

The band was another great example of how solid musicians can come together over a sound that has become an ideal. Being that David Hines and Selwyn Brown (keyboards and backing vocals) are the only original members, the rest of the group embodied professional musicianship that way they morphed into their roles. Bassist Amlak Tafari held it down literally and figuratively. I had never seen a bass player do so many lunges and straddle his bass so close to the ground.

What really set this apart from me was when early, about four songs into the set, played ‘Your House’, which is one of my most favorite reggae songs, ever. They never played it the first two times I saw them, so when they did I couldn’t believe it. I stood still and tried to pay really close attention, breaking through the haze and periphery of all the dancers. At that moment I may have been the only one in the venue not moving…

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