Reggae collective East Star All Stars played Norwich’s Waterfront venue on the 2nd of July. Westley Barnes headed down to the show.
Reggae often gets a dirty name amongst hipsters, who claim repetition and lack of inventiveness make for uninspired listening.
What makes New York’s Easy Star All Star collective, who played Norwich’s storied Waterfront on a sunny Sunday evening to a crowd consisting of equal amounts dreadlocked reggae enthusiasts, Pitchfork scrollers and weekend revellers out for way to top odd a summer weekend, so delightfully anarchistic?
Celebrating the tenth anniversary of their Thom Yorke-approved take on OK Computer, that masterwork of Western culture’s most tragically hip bands Radiohead, the job Easy Star does is taking Rock and Pop’s sacred cows and re-interpreting them in a Caribbean fashion that makes the most hardened cynic traditionalist smile and groove along.
After soulful and energetic London upstarts Shanty get the crowd’s heads nodding along to their impressively soothing tales of urban pressure, it’s hard to put into words just how good OK Computer’s opener “Airbag” sounds in a time condensed Reggae styling, bassist Ras I Ray’s vocals recalling a near-death experience that reaches into the melodious ether in a way the original doesn’t quite catch. Leader Michael Goldwasser’s guitar playing shows all the noise-provoking intensities of Johnny Greenwood’s playing, backed aptly by a coda-inflecting brass section, who have “Paranoid Android” sounding like the celebrity send-off on the closing night of BBC’s Proms.
Suitably skanking backing is provided for “Climbing Up The Walls” a song which on first listening doesn’t necessarily seem suited to musical adaptation of any kind. Between treating audience to a beautifully sombre rendition of “Exit Music (For a Film)” which has the “such a thrill” outro down to a melancholy tee, to exploding into a horns-drenched version of Pink Floyd’s “Money”-first heard on the group’s initial covers project, 20003’s Dub Side of The Moon) to a version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” that sounds more like The Clash doing “Guns of Brixton” than the Thriller favourite, Easy Star pull unlikely punches into familiar favourites that surprise and delight with Rasta buoyancy.
Ending the show with a roasting heavy version of Floyd’s “Time” (“Time is the masta/ but Time can also be a disasta!”) and a strikingly beautiful version of “Karma Police”(for a minute there, I really did lose myself in this version-pure paranoid bliss)-leaving this punter with a clearer mind on where the experimental potential of Reggae can travel, while still remaining IRIE.