Review: Marleyversary with Soothsayers & Dennis Bovell @ The Forge (London, 6th February 2016)

Soothsayers are among the leading underground, reggae and dub bands this side of Jamaica. They also love a bit of afrobeat. Over the years they’ve worked with a number of veteran reggae artists including, Cornell Campbell, Johnny Clarke, Michael Prophet and Linval Thompson. To celebrate the 71st Anniversary of Bob Marley’s birth, they make no exception and invited Linton Kwesi Johnson collaborator Dennis Bovell (from British reggae band Matumbi) to perform at their gig at the Forge.

Kodjovi Kush kicked off Marleyversary on the mic leading his Afrospot All Stars (who are essentially Soothsayers and guests) with some West African high-life. As the afro-funk kicked in, the mixed, mature crowd was starting to get warmed up.

It was nice to see an expectant audience. As Kush moved from the mic to the Rhodes organ more people started leaving their seats. This event was all about Bob Marley though, and mid-way through the set, the All Stars played a Marley tune. Both the All Stars and Soothsayers entertain with uplifting tunes spliced with elongated musical interludes, horn, guitar and drum solos.

After a 20 minute break, the Soothsayers proper started with two quick-fire Marley instrumentals. It goes without saying that there’s something about well-played reggae that gets the party going. The only dampener being the poor mic quality.

Effortlessly, the band shifted from ‘one drop’ reggae to dub as trumpeter, Robin Hopcroft, manipulated his electronic set up. The authenticity of this event felt like an appropriate Marley celebration. Everyone was having fun. That is to say, everyone except an older lady who complained that the band didn’t play enough Bob.  Well… suppose it’s a matter of taste.

The night appropriately ended with Dennis Bovell on bass guitar, capitalising on the now lubricated crowd. Bovell opened with the classic Marley hit ‘Old Pirates’, which I hope pleased the old lady. As he continued with songs from his catalogue, his London charm engaged the crowd and ended the night on a high.

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