I bought a couple of tickets for this gig on a whim a few weeks ago. I have always liked Jimmy Cliff and I still have a ‘best of’ and the soundtrack for ‘The Harder They Come’ in my collection. Back in the olden days I owned maybe half a dozen Jimmy Cliff 7 inch vinyl 45 rpm records. My lovely wife Catherine (a.k.a. Catwoman) came with me. But I had warned her that the Academy was not a seated venue.
Anyway the lack of seats was not a problem at all as this quickly became one of the best gigs either of us had ever been to. Jimmy is a true entertainer; magnificent stage presence, fabulous rapport with his audience, an amazing band and, even after all these years a wonderful voice. It’s so hard to believe that he has been recording and playing live for more than 50 years! He opened with the sparse but supreme “Bongo Man A Come” which he seamlessly blended into a cover of the classic Ethiopians song “Rivers Of Babylon”. The proper one that includes the Far-I references, not the bland and sanitised rubbish that Boney M had a hit with in the late 70s. from the off Mr Cliff had the whole audience eating out of his hands. When he said sing, we did. When he said shout, we did. When he said wave your hands, we did. When he said jump, we did. When he said clap, yes you guessed it, we did!
All the hits were there “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, “Miss Jamaica”, “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”, “Many Rivers To Cross”, “The Harder They Come”, “Sitting In Limbo”, “The World Is Upside Down”, “Hard Road To Travel” and an excellent “Vietnam” which he used as a chance to plead for world peace by replacing the chorus with references to other world conflicts and trouble spots; Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and more.
The cover versions that Jimmy has done over the years always seemed carefully selected and he performed them magnificently tonight. These included Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”, Johnny Nash’s “I Can see Clearly Now” and a rather excellent song from the Lion King, “Hakuna Matata”. Catwoman and I had sore feet by the end of the evening from all the fancy footwork we attempted. We danced the Ska, rocksteady, reggae and others like nobody was watching. There was some really mental dancing going on around us too. In fact the audience may have been more worn out than Jimmy Cliff at the end. He still looked fresh after remaining on stage for nearly two hours including three encores. When he comes back to dear old Blighty I will definitely be in the queue for tickets and I urge you to do the same. You will not be disappointed! And finally, please note that none of the pictures or the videos on this post were filmed by me. I was too busy enjoying the show! None f them are actually from this show either.