MARCIA GRIFFITHS with BERES HAMMOND and the HARMONY HOUSE SINGERS, LEON & THE PEOPLES, TRESON and BLESSED at the Docks, January 19. Tickets: $49.99. Attendance: 2,804. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Anyone in the audience attempting the electric slide last Friday at the Docks would have been jostling people and knocking drinks out of hands. Even though the dance craze's originator was in the building, there just wasn't room. But that's what happens when you book the undisputed queen of reggae, Marcia Griffiths, and follow her up with the soul of Beres Hammond.
Between the giveaways and antics of hosts Jahmin, Scabba G and Spex, local opener Treson and NYC's Leon & the Peoples mashed it down musically in their own right. Rocking a stripped-down set on the solo tip, Treson toasted with energetic flows, while a full back-up band assisted Leon on covers of Rihanna's Unfaithful and Peter Tosh's Legalize It, including well-timed pauses for good-humoured banter.
Griffiths's backup band's heavyness provided the perfect sonic backdrop for her smoky, warm vocals. In an elegant satin outfit, the Wailers member took an amped-up crowd back to 1978 with her mesmerizing Dreamland, followed by her equally meditative I Shall Sing, which was only the prelude to a parade of gems.
Griffiths took a moment to pay tribute to Joseph Hill of the group Culture, who passed away last April. She also honoured Bob Marley before breaking into an impassioned version of Could You Be Love. Later, she unleashed her Electric Boogie (dance steps and all), but the highlight was her robust rendition of Dawn Penn's You Don't Love Me (No, No, No).
The massive stage and packed audience compromised the diminutive legend's lively presence a little. Fortunately, she had the pipes and backing band to compensate.
The same can be said for the hard-working Beres Hammond. Accompanied by his always solid Harmony House Singers and sporting his trademark baseball cap, he humbly wooed the crowd with his mixed bag of soul, roots and lovers' rock reggae. With his Marvin Gaye-like aura, he cruised impressively through his catalogue until almost 4 in the morning.