If there was a Church of Jimmy Cliff, you can bet your ass we would attend every Sunday. Reggae lovers braved the 90-degree heat on Tuesday to support one of reggae’s greatest legends, and boy did he not disappoint.
There were dreads as far as the eye could see in the almost-packed Ogden Theater and if there is one word that could sum up the night, it would be HOT. We were grateful that the show wasn’t completely sold out otherwise it would have turned into a big, juicy mess. Of course there were the usual mushroom clouds of pot smoke wafting through the air and the colors red, yellow and green filled the room, but hey, it wouldn’t be a reggae concert without pot smoke and Rasta colors right?
We first have to talk about the badass outfit Cliff was rocking. Taking the stage in a yellow snakeskin suit and sequined headband, we knew right away this show was going to be a wild one. With his backing band dressed all in red, Cliff commanded the stage with the fervor of a pastor preaching to his congregation. While his backing band were amazing musicians in their own right, it was hard to tear your eyes away from Cliff and his dance moves. Whether it was arms wind-milling, legs flying or Tai Chi, Cliff moved and grooved with energy far younger than his 64 years.
Audience participation was key to the success of the show as Cliff constantly kept the audience singing and clapping through classics like “Viet nam,” and “You Can Get It If You Really Want.” Playing a mix of ska and roots reggae, Cliff proved exactly why he received the Order of Merit from the Jamaican government, one of the highest honors a musician can receive. Positive vibes flowed in and out through the mixed-ages crowd and when it came time for the band to teach the audience some reggae dance moves, there wasn’t a still person in sight. Known for his amazing covers of Cat Stevens’ “ Wild World,” and Johnny Nash’s, “I Can See Clearly Now” from the film Cool Runnings, we were delighted to have the chance to see these songs live.
But it was the encore (or should we say 3 encores) that really capped off an already amazing night. Starting things off with “Sitting in Limbo,” it was clear Cliff had saved the best for last. After “Limbo,” drums were brought onstage and each band member participated in an acoustic cover of “Rivers of Babylon,” and Cliff’s vocals couldn’t have been more spot on. After the crowd chanted “one more song,” for about two minutes, Cliff and the band came out for one last jam session running through the classics, “Many Rivers to Cross” and “The Harder They Come,” finally ending with the joyous “Wonderful World, Beautiful People.”
The entire show was professionally filmed so keep your eyes peeled for a film release so you can relive all the fun.