Review: Easy Star All-Stars/The Skints
Venue: The Duchess, November 7, 2012
The Duchess is pretty full already by the time support band The Skints hit the stage straight in to the upbeat Murderer from their debut album. This four-piece band waste no time putting across their East London take on reggae, and their sound is actually a dubbed up Specials/Clash hybrid with sweet vocals and a punk rock attitude, and it’s a pretty fine mix to be fair.
Keyboard player Marcia Richards takes centre-stage handling sax, guitar, flute and melodica and that’s before I even mention her sweet voice. She’s lead vocal on several songs, but it’s guitarist/vocalist Joshua Waters Rudge who is the main man, with his rap inspired ska vocals, slick minimal guitar work and overall cool attitude.
They are a sharp-dressed, slick and finely-tuned groove machine, bass heavy and with a crystal clear sound thanks to a soundman who tonight only helps to bring out the best in songs such as Culture Vulture and Get Me.
The rap element adds a modern twist to an old sound, and with their heavy reggae-influenced vibes and sweet ska tones, it’s a mix that works well both live and on record.
The bass is what holds this band together, effortlessly hypnotising the audience to move in unison with the bass player as he sways from side to side for the entire set, and with many singing along to every song you could be forgiven in believing they were the headliners. An effortless performance like this ensures The Skints are going places fast…
To be honest I’ve never been the biggest of reggae fans or of Pink Floyd for that matter, but in 2003 Easy Star All-Stars‘ Dub Side Of The Moon album instantly connected with me. De-constructing a classic album so well is no easy feat and they seem to do it with ease. They have done the same since with Radiohead and the Beatles, and they are now touring supporting the release of Easy Star’s Thrilla, their take on the Michael Jackson classic.
Several MJ tracks are played early, the repetitive Wanna Be Startin’ Something, Mine All Mine is a chilled, summery reggae pop version and actually Thriller works the best, slowed right down to a reggae groove, it flows nicely and this has the crowd singing along with many failed attempts to emulate the Thriller dance.
Yet the MJ songs overall do not transfer to the reggae format as well as Pink Floyd and Radiohead tunes, but believe me it doesn’t seem to bother this crowd. For my taste they are too poppy and watered down, although this could be down to the fact that Jackson’s songs contractually can’t be tampered with too much.
It’s not until the familiar tones of Breathe and the following Time that the band hit full power, and I am given multiple goosebump moments as the crowd jumps and sways as one, singing every word back to the smiling band.
The crowd is a mixed bunch of students, indie kids and rockers come to unite in the sweet reggae vibes of this interesting New York band. I have not seen so many dreads in one place since the mid Nineties. It’s not very often you get to hear a show where Radiohead songs rub shoulders with Pink Floyd and Michael Jackson, and yet ESAS are definitely more than just a covers band.
An Easy Star All-Stars show is a relaxed and chilled affair. As with most reggae, energy-wise it’s all on one level, relying on a bass-heavy groove. It’s clear that bassist Ras I Ray is the main man of the band, but he is not the main vocalist. Several band members take it in turns to take the lead.
The encore sees guitarist Shelton Garner Jr do a lone rendition of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song which is damn sweet sounding, then the rest of the band return for a frankly stunning extended run through of Pink Floyd’s Money – the energy levels peak here and it ends the show in the best possible way… on a high.
Easy Star All-Stars are a highly enjoyable watch with a good mixed up set of old and new material. But tonight for me the stars of the show were the support band. Sometimes it’s nice when that happens.