Rhoda Dakar at Rough Trade East
Rhoda Dakar, one time lead singer of The Bodysnatchers and collaborator with the likes of Madness and The Specials, delivered a classic, intimate set at Rough Trade East with a backing quintet of talented musicians. The free event, a launch for her latest EP The LoTek Four Vol 1, took place in a challenging venue: a Rough Trade record store in front of an understandably sober crowd. But the British singer still succeeded in getting some good laughs and dance moves out of the tentative audience.
The band kicked off with Easy Life, an old track from 1981, which Dakar covered on her 2015 album Sings the Bodysnatchers. Her voice entered smoothly into its characteristic powerful vibrato while the musicians did a solid job of getting people moving, and coming out with killer solos such as Terry Edwards on sax in Tears You Can’t Hide.
The frontwoman was unfortunately nursing a cold that evening and made sure to remind everyone of the fact as much as possible, blaming her somewhat long yet occasionally funny talking breaks on being “deliriously ill”. The quality of playing was not compromised, however, and Dakar’s voice remained on point for most of the show – save for a few pitching troubles, particularly in the bassy, dub-inspired Fill the Emptiness – and she even benefitted a little from the cold’s hoarse effect on her vocal cords.
The show turned a little cliquey when she pointed out people in the audience that she knew and did a happy birthday routine for her pianist Louis Vause before launching into You Talking to Me?, a slick and jazzy tune that really brought a cool, laid back feel to the set. Dakar and her band kept the successful Bodysnatchers track Let’s Do Rocksteady till last and promptly embedded it into everybody’s heads with its catchy chorus.
Although the venue was certainly not conducive to a flashy, entertaining atmosphere, Rhoda Dakar could have nonetheless worked more on her stagecraft for this little gig. On the whole, the performance felt like a family recital, with almost as much talking as there was playing. There was no connection between the singer’s monologues and the songs themselves, which she would announce each time in advance after dubiously checking the set list. It lent a slightly amateur and low-energy feel to the performance despite a high standard of musicianship.
Photo: Peter Dunwell
For further information about Rhoda Dakar and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Let’s Do Rocksteady here: