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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2006/05/14
by Jeremy Sanchez

Culture/Seed Is,The NorVa, Norfolk, VA- 5/6

Reggae crowds at The NorVa like to come in fashionably late; I always come late if I’m not trying to catch the opening band. It’s probably because so many Reggae shows at The NorVa have started late in the past, usually with a DJ trying to get a thin crowd to dance along to whatever is currently fashionable on the FM Reggae slots.

Tonight, though, local band Seed is opened for Culture. Anyone who slept on making their set, well, they lost out. Seed is gives its audiences some spoken word, followed by Go Go, followed by some Soulful singing, Funk and a healthy dollop of Roots/Dub Reggae (tonight, area reggae booking agent and all-around Reggae scene promoter Jahboo worked their soundboard and rocked the room with Dub effects, as some of the songs looped into thick tangents), hinge pinned by choice electric guitar riffing and heavy drum and bass pairing. I’ve seen a lot of crappy Reggae openers at The NorVa and Seed is just isn’t one of them. Check this crew out (! On the Reggae tip, “Thunder and Lightning” and “Sudan Slavery” had the house moving.

Once Seed is exited the stage, the stage crew went to re-arranging everything for Culture’s set. This basically means setting up the three vocal mics for legendary frontman/songwriter Joseph Hill and the two backing vocalists (Albert Walker, backing vocalist in the original trio known as Culture, and Telford Nelson, who joined Culture in 1999) and getting the band’s gear in order. After Culture’s backing band went through a warm up session, the vocal trio linked with their mics and it was on

The drummer (Leslie James) and bassist (Steve Samuels) were unshakable, leaving comfortable room for guitarist Robin Armstrong and the two keyboard players (Earl Michellin and Chris Whitley) to paint away, Hill and friends crooning over top as has been done for almost 3 decades. In those years the trio has been re-arranged (Albert Walker left, but came back) and a long list of songs has been released to the world. While such a glut of material almost always leads to hit and miss shows with any band (you’re not always going to hear what you want when a band has so much to pick from) Culture usually comes correct, as was the case tonight.

“A Slice of Mt. Zion” was an early treat and “Love Shines Brighter” made Hill stop the song one verse in, to ask us if we had lovewe did and so the song cranked back up and our feet kept moving. One of his best known songs, one that’s always played, “Two Sevens Clash” was released in 1976. It references (with hope) the impending Apocalypse many Rastafarians thought would come in the year that the two sevens would clash (1977), 7/7/77 was a most focused on date, although we all know it passed without incident. Anyhow, the song and eventual album is a milestone in Culture and Roots Reggae’s history and we heard another live cut.

Culture encored with “Calling Rastafari” and nodded to Bob Marley, merging “Calling Rastfari” directly into “Mellow Mood.” Bob Marley died 25 years ago this month and it’s only appropriate that artists like Culture are still recognizing his influence and the bedrock he laid. Culture could have ended the show with one of their own singles, but chose to leave the audience thinking of an entirely different piece of Reggae’s puzzle, because even if you don’t accept or believe Rastafarian teachings, the love and familial feelings pouring from its foundations are undeniable and tangible. Remember Bob Marley (a quarter century goneI’ve only been alive that long), continue to see legends like Culture as they spread a conscious fire and, in general, don’t sleep on this scene as it’s originators are aging and nothing can last forever.

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