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Local News / Entertainment

Friday, 16 July, 2010 2:41 AM

Jimmy Cliff takes it to the next level at the Common Ground Fest

Photo credit: www.reggae.com

Jimmy Cliff performed on Wednesday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m. on the Pearle Vision stage at the Common Ground Fest in Lansing, Mich.
by Pete Bublitz
petblitz@yahoo.com

 

LANSING, Mich. -- A small crowd’s ability to be enraptured during a nightfall that felt like 85 degrees brews a paraphrase of one line from Desmond Dekker’s “007” song off the soundtrack to the cult film The Harder They Come: Dem a move, dem a groove, dem a cheer in Lan-sing town.

On the Wednesday evening of July 14, attendees of the Common Ground Music Festival were immersed in just that thanks to newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, star of the aforementioned feature, and reggae icon, Jimmy Cliff.

Though it looked as though he was delayed on the backstage stairway (with his head bowed as if in prayer or other mental preparation), the mostly clothed-white Cliff (not of Dover, of course) bounced onto the festival’s Pearle Vision Stage at 9:40 p.m. with the opener “We are All One.”

That was the only song performed before Jimmy and his backup band ventured into songs from the soundtrack that made him a breakthrough artist beyond his native Jamaica, following up with “Sitting in Limbo.”

The humorously suggestive fog rising amid the musicians and lighting that shared the Jamaican flag’s colors helped add to the overall bravado in Cliff’s voice (frequently leading the crowd in cries of “A’ight!” and key chorus sections) and mobile energy: whether it was solitary jogging or doing a mock military march across the stage.

On one of the covers, the group pulled an “All Along the Watchtower:” taking a previously known song with a folk-like element and stretching it into more sonic boundaries. The impressive rendition on this night was Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” which earned a slice of jazz interpretation from a trumpet solo and a fantastic sizzle in the searing outro from Cliff’s guitarist.

This type of selection served as build-up to Cliff’s more conscious message songs, such as “Save our Planet Earth” and an updated version of “Vietnam” (which used the War in Afghanistan as the main choral focus).

Eventually, Cliff to the crowd back to the movies by embarking on a string of soundtrack hits, including “Many Rivers to Cross” and “I Can See Clearly Now.” He would even treat the fans to a reenactment of one of the more memorable scenes in The Harder They Come before going into its title song: the carving-up of Longa’s face.

Interesting choice, but in retrospect it would have been a lot worse for him to pantomime the foot chase through the streets: he probably would’ve been mobbed more heavily by fans than his character Ivanhoe Martin was by kids.

Approaching the set’s end, the chairs and bongos were brought out to signify that the upcoming songs would take a route of African stomp roots; those songs were “Bongo Man” and a well-transitioned version of the Melodians’ “Rivers of Babylon” (also on the Harder They Come soundtrack).

Returning for an encore, Cliff and his band put icing on the introductory emcee’s guarantee of a “Roots-rocking reggae experience” with their medley of “Treat the Youths Right”/”Reggae Movement”/”Rub-A-Dub Partner.”

The band members would take this string of songs into more danceable territory by actually guiding the attendees through several Jamaican dance styles. They eventually marked the nights close by leaving the stage one by one while the music played on until only the bassist remained.

It was quite a downbeat close to see, bringing to mind the musical image of a sunset, yet the beats delivered by Jimmy C. and company maintained enough optimism to perhaps promise another sunrise. Maybe that’s what kept the crowd applauding after the overhead lights blacked out.

For more information on Jimmy Cliff, visit www.jimmycliff.com.

Related Story: PREVIEW -- Bret Michaels, Sammy Hagar and Adam Lambert among the headliners at 11th Annual Common Ground Festival

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The Pearle Vision stage at the Common Ground Festival

 

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