Even through the metal slats of The Picket’s musical palisade, it’s plain to see the night is one of promise. The smoking yard is already frothing with skin heads, wizened Rastafarians, and the sensuous overflow of some mind blowing Ragga’s own Caribbean cooking… shabba. The Picket itself seemed to be watching the sand drop for this night in particular, and the recent October heat-wave’s sun has never fallen so sweetly on the pavement of the aptly named Jamaica Street. With MISTY IN ROOTS riding Liverpool’s recent wave of top Reggae acts performing in the city in the past two months (TOOTS AND THE MAYTALS and JIMMY CLIFF); it’s easy to see why this band in particular were a John Peel favourite.
Needing no introduction the seven piece band are led on by the brass section and they’re already into their set with a real top Reggae tune True Rastaman, and with Kaziwayi’s (Rhythm and Lead Guitar) train rolling treble flicks kicking at the back of your legs, it’s hard not to keep moving. By the end of their follow-up tune, the massive Jah See, Jah Know, the ghost of youth is unleashed from Poko (Vocals) whose stage presence tells that not much has slipped since their last album Roots Controller, released way back in 2002.
Cover Up – reminiscent of the SPECIALS classic Ghost Town, unites the mixed bag that constitutes the audience, a retrospectively harrowing sight when considering much of the ethos that surrounds this band. Racial and fascist issues being at its most poignant on the songs release with its reference to “Stephen Lawrence, black male cut down in south London”. In fact, there are many beautiful cynicisms and much paranoia that revolve around this band; a sweetly cutting epitaph that summates solid musical genius and passion for ones heritage… isn’t that what reggae music is all about?
Not being shaded too much by underlying issues, the band is quick to sow the seed of where true Reggae lies. And the proclamation of “more sunshine music we gun’ play for you” and “this music is like magic, black magic” get those train like chucks moving quickly on track again. And tunes such as On the Road Again and Musi-O-Tunya, throw back all the calypso and Caribbean beats that get in your belly and tickle your smile from the inside out. Poko, though clearly eligible for his free bus pass was able to belt out some real high end notes, whilst making even ol’ Brucey Forsyth’s dancing look like a stumbling drunk in the local. This is a top British band in every sense of the title, a band whose powerful lyrics and passionate beats finally culminate into their step-down song Ghetto of the City, a broken hearted and pragmatic summer anthem that could still stand tall in today’s music game. A testament that what lies beneath those grey bearded men on stage is a pulse of Reggae that hasn’t waned in over 40 years, a pulse that still beats strong today.