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Jimmy Cliff

Summer Nights @ Glasgow Kelvingrove Bandstand (Wednesday 9th August)

By • Aug 12th, 2018 • Category: gig reviews

It’s not often we’re in the presence of that old cliche, a living legend, but the Summer Nights shows at Glasgow’s old – and legendary – Bandstand has them by the bucketload.

And Jimmy Cliff – like Nile Rodgers, who played the same park recently – is happy to walk us through his legacy.

The Jamaican singer, who first came to worldwide prominence along with reggae itself via ’70s film ‘The Harder They Come’, has seen it all.

Starting off seated the entire nine-piece band play brightly-coloured drums for ‘Bongo Man’, which segues into another classic ‘Rivers of Babylon’.

Of course, that wasn’t a Cliff original but what we find tonight is just now many of the 70-year-old’s own songs we know. We get staples like ‘This Is My Love Song’ and ‘Treat The Youth Right’, but the main attractions come from that golden era when the now 70-year-old spearheaded reggae’s march into the mainstream.

His take on Cat Stevens’ ‘Wild World’ becomes a singalong with, let’s be honest, a little too much audience interaction, his rich tones drowned out by the raucous Glasgow crowd, as the sun goes down on a warm evening and we get a hint of Jamaica as colourful lights flash across up the Kelvingrove greenery.

1969’s ‘Vietnam’ is another classic, its upbeat swing contrasting the subject matter as Cliff brings the song up to date, referencing Syria, Afghanistan and Israel.

His band – skilled and happily far from the cabaret style that many acts of this vintage employ – are highly skilled in guiding the singer through a set stretching over 90 minutes, though sadly they can’t disguise Cliff’s slightly weary vocal chords on what should have been the evening’s showstopper, ‘Many Rivers To Cross’.

But we can make allowances given his provenance – as he unabashedly says, he was there “at the beginning”, and by that he means before reggae – dipping into some ska before the curious ‘Reggae Night’ which seems to owe a debt to Kool and the Gang’s ‘Ladies Night’; the versatile band happy to take on funk, soul and r’n’b.

But it is Jimmy Cliff’s place as reggae royalty that the rapt Kelvingrove audience are here to celebrate, and although he is ushered back onstage for several encores, it’s a joyous ‘The Harder They Come’ which we’re singing as we head off into the night.

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