Jimmy Cliff leads Jamaican celebrations at indigO2
Jamaica 50 Festival at indigO2, 06/08/12
It’s 50 years since the day that Jamaica gained independence from Britain, and with the country’s mood buoyed further still by a clean sweep in Sunday’s 100 metres Olympic final, the closing night of the indigO2 Jamaica 50 Festival was always going to be a celebratory affair.
It took its time getting underway though, with a parade of listless reggae from icons well past their sell-by-date. Reformed 60s vocalists The Gaylads were dreadfully out-of-key in particular, and while Max Romeo cut an appealingly striking figure in all-orange pyjamas and chaotic grey dreadlocks, he was comprehensively outsung by two ten-year-olds he brought on to close his set with Chase The Devil.
All of which served to make Jimmy Cliff’s triumphant headlining performance all the more special. The start of his set was pushed back past midnight due to lengthy support sets and change-over times (brevity may be the soul of Jamaican sprinting, but it doesn’t seem to cross over to concert-planning!) but the 64-year-old didn’t let that put him off, duck-walking and high-kicking his way onstage to belt out signature hit You Can Get It If You Really Want with a massive grin plastered on his face.
The good vibes barely let up from that point on, even when Cliff’s lyrics came laced with political disenchantment or social unrest – witness the savagely funky Vietnam, and several tracks from his thoughtful new album Rebirth. I Can See Clearly Now allowed the London crowd a mercifully escapist singalong, imagining what it would be like if the rain did actually go, and The Harder They Come was a spirited encore as always.
Throughout the evening there were plenty of platitudes about the great culture legacy of post-independence Jamaica, but Jimmy Cliff is living, breathing proof, and he remains as compelling and energetic a live performer as he was in his heyday.
For more information follow this link for Jimmy Cliff.
Jimmy Cliff’s new single, One More, is out now.