Jimmy Cliff at First Avenue 9/19/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Erik Hess

Jimmy Cliff
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Thursday, September 19, 2013

The legendary Jimmy Cliff made a most triumphant return after 25 years to the First Avenue stage last night. It a late-summer evening filled with joy, incredible music and a thorough history as he told the story of Jamaican music and his own career. Credited as one of the chief architects of reggae music, Cliff and his band electrified the jubilant crowd with hit after hit of his own songs along with samplings of hallmark Jamaican anthems creating massive amounts of positive energy with each sing-along.

See Also: Slideshow: Jimmy Cliff at First Avenue, 9/19/13

"Are you ready for the Bongo Man?!" Cliff's bandmates asked, egging the audience on for the beginning of an exhaustive two-hour set. Cliff started things off with true Jamaican roots music and a slow, steady groove that invoked the Nyahbinghi rhythms and chants that carried on with a breath and overwhelming emotion. Flanked by his band all playing drums Cliff shuffled his way toward his own djembe and led the audience through a medley of "Bongo Man" and an extended version of the Meditations "Rivers of Babylon" that had Cliff urging the audience to chant the chorus with uplifting results.

"Sing along for Jamaica! Sing along for Minnesota. Sing along for Kingston. Sing along for Saint Paul and Minneapolis!" Cliff commanded the packed full First Avenue making it feel like a gospel revival of sorts.

Photos by Erik Hess

In a pink hat and Jamaican colors striped across his satin jumpsuit Cliff began the story of Jamaican music in a raspy voice as he introduced each song. Miraculously, Cliff at 65 maintained his singing voice, and never let up as he belted out "Hard Road to Travel" from his 1969 self-titled record that functioned in getting the audience moving to its rock steady rhythm. Working as a theme of sorts for the night Cliff discussed the historic part of the music that centered around Jamaican independence and the big influence the era's ska music had on him as a singer as he rewound the clock with one of his earliest singles, the Leslie Kong produced "King of Kings" and "Miss Jamaica", both from 1962. Demonstrating the traditional Jamaican ska, Cliff evoked the youthful spirit of the songs.

"They say Adam came before Eve. I beg to differ. How could that be? Man comes from woman. After her comes he. Woman is divine and the root of creation," he praised to roaring applause from the ladies in the crowd as the band kicked in with a fervent bounce for "Roots Woman."

Returning to his career Cliff told the story of hearing the next song in the studio as a song its original singer, Cat Stevens, wasn't totally pleased with. "Well, I would love to do that song!" Cliff explained as "Wild World" rallied the biggest heartfelt sing along at this point. The energy was breathtaking with the entire room belting out each chorus with massive waves of cheers and swaying hands up in the air.

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