Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Barrington Levy; August 5/07 Harbourfront Centre, Toronto

A rare local appearance from Barrington Levy seemed like the perfect end to Caribana/ Lord Simcoe weekend. The singer has been recording since his 1977 single "My Black Girl", and he was entertaining dancehall crowds since the age of 14. In the early 1980's, Barrington Levy and his producer Junjo Lawes made hit records and popular live appearances in England. Backed by the Channel One All Stars (subsequently renamed the Roots Radics), Barrington's records and performances did well enough, but in 1985 "Here I Come" gave Barrington and his new producer Jah Screw a major international reggae hit. They scored again with "Under Me Sensi", which has been resurrected more than once, and it is probably Levy's most enduring classic. Levy has also had success covering old songs himself, such as "Too Experienced".
Tonight, Barrington Levy and his reliably hot band played a pounding, solid set of old and new music occasionally punctuated by a few flashy guitar licks. He must have been pleased by the turn-out as the entire area was packed shoulder to shoulder. The heavy Jamaican presence presumably helped too, but Levy was clearly enjoying himself. Many people in the audience knew the words and sang along even to lesser known songs like the "Black Roses" and "Danger". Barrington tried a couple of new tracks out as well, and they too were well received.
Other songs like "Reggae Music" and "Dangerous Times" (about a sloppy philanderer) were stretched out by the band, but "Here I Come" got a particularly raucous response, as Barrington broke down to all the song's rude components for the delighted crowd. Levy broke into a capella singing and rhyming several times during the show, and even after 30 years in the business, he can easily belt out rapid-fire lyrics as well as the best rappers and dancehall singers. This was a high energy event that must have been one of Barrington's best North American audiences in a long time.
No pictures, I was too far away, it was too dark outside, and shots of Barrington were too blurry.

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