Steel Pulse Marquee Theatre Wednesday, April 11
When a band has been around 37 years, it knows how to do things right. From tight musicianship to a dynamic stage show -- plus a deep catalog of hits -- Steel Pulse covered all the bases Wednesday night at the Marquee. The show wasn't perfect, but it was damn good.
Frontman David Hinds made the right choice opening the show with some of the band's top hits, beginning with "Rally Round," followed by "Roller Skates," "Chant A Psalm" and "Raid Blues Dance." The familiar '80s hits got the crowd fired up and in the groove. Some lesser known tracks were worked into the early mix as well, like "No More Weapons" from African Holocaust, "Pan Africans Unite" and "Glory Island." Unfortunately, this song seemed to muddle along with repetitive rhythms and chorus and spurned an exodus for the bar.
But that was the anomaly. Most of the evening Hinds, with almost knee-length dreads, righteous shades, white visor and an outfit similar to a West African Boubou, played the crowd perfectly as he bounced about the stage with an abundance of energy. His vocals were as distinctive as always whether leading a song or operating within the classic roots reggae call and response.
His seven-piece band always kept pace. It was nice to see -- and hear -- an actual saxophonist as too many lesser reggae acts opt for synthesized horns. It's an important dynamic in reggae, and here it was done right.
The bassist, however, seemed to come from the Bootsy Collins/Funkadelic school of playing. Draped with red bandana and white wraparound shades, the bassist played it too deep, too heavy. In a brick and cement venue like the Marquee, where sounds rebound about the room, the bassist should have backed off. The deep bombs would have been cool occasionally, but the continuous nature of them drowned out the vocals and occasionally other instruments. The guitarist too seemed better suited for a thrash metal band. Every lead -- every one! -- was high pitched and squealing. A Van Halen-esque tapping solo was needless excess. It added nothing and was distracting to the real reason we were all there -- to hear top-notch reggae.
All that aside, Steel Pulse primarily stuck to the tried and true numbers, adding "Not King James Version," "Drug Squad," "Stepping Out" (with the audience singing the intro) and an acoustic "Back to My Roots," with Hinds solo on acoustic guitar, as the first encore. Also of note was "Rocksteady" a newer song and the title track of the movie of the same name staring Hinds. This bouncy number had the true pre-reggae feel and was a nice change of pace.
All told, Steel Pulse remains a class act. Despite a few down moments, the group put on a fun a show.
Last Night: Vintage reggae act Steel Pulse
Personal bias: The band blew me away in 1982 and I've been a fan ever since.
The crowd: Too many drunks and not enough stoners. It was a varied crowd, but too much of a sloppy, sticky beer-soaked floor affair.
Random notebook dump: Why can't musicians (bassist) learn to play a room and not an ego? Too much of a thunderous thing is wasteful.
Overheard: "I always know it's time to go when my friend ends up kissing some guy that looks like Jabba the Hutt." (She was, and he did!)