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BEING THERE: Jimmy Cliff @ The Keswick

Photo by PETE TROSHAK

Last night, reggae legend and Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer Jimmy Cliff and his merry six piece band filled the Keswick Theatre in support of 2012’s aptly-titled Rebirth, his first proper album in more than a decade. Opening with “Bongo Man” and segueing into “Rivers Of Bablyon, Cliff and his band proceeded to deliver, a 23-song testament to his career sequenced in chronological order. With a newsboy cap pulled down over his eyes and his guitar slung upside down and left handed, Cliff appeared younger than his 65 years. He strutted and danced joyously like a cross between Jagger and Chuck Berry, exhorting the crowd and stopping between songs to tell each song’s history. The enthusiastic crowd sang along with many of the songs and most of the show people were lined up and down the side aisles of the venues dancing. Cliff talked about being offered a song by Cat Stevens before breaking into his rendition of “Wild World,” which included some impressive trumpet work and Santana-esque guitar from his band-mates. There was a somber moment among the joyous ones, as Cliff introduced the protest song “Vietnam” by telling the story of a friend who inspired it. The man was a soldier who had lost his mind from the atrocities he saw in that war and returned not even able to remember his friends. The reggae legend updated the song to include references to Afghanistan, Syria, Israel and Egypt and talked about his hope that they didn’t become the next Vietnam. Cliff talked about working as an A&R rep during the formative years of reggae and helping to start the careers of Desmond Dekker and Bob Marley and delivered a powerful cover of Marley’s “Judge Not.” Cliff got a standing ovation for his beautiful rendition of “Many Rivers To Cross.” Cliff and his band closed his set with a defiant version of “The Harder They Come” before returning for three encores. The highlight of the night came during the second encore when Cliff gave a beautiful intro speech that closed with him saying “never give up on your dreams” then he and his band delivered a soulful and inspiring “You Can Get It If You Really Want.” – PETE TROSHAK

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