Concert report
Reggae '97 Geel.
Festival grounds ~ Geel ~ Belgium.
02 - 08 - 1997

Reggae '97 Geel held its nineteenth annual open air festival Aug. 1-2 at their festival grounds located in a woody area between Geel and Mol. For the first time ever the promoters couldn't hold on to their free entrance policy, due to the fact they can't guarantee the existence of this event regarding the present quality level of artists. Praiseworthy they kept the admission price as low as possible (200 BEF = 6 US dollars all-in).

To set off the vibes Friday night The Amharic (with bassplayer Ronnie Lion, founder of the Lion Roots label coming from Brixton, London, by many regarded as one of the best U.K. record labels concerning "new roots" releases) and the soundsystems Survival Hi Power & Jetstar/Jambo were performing at the camping special in a large tent called the Marquee. However, for many the main event took place at Saturday evening and night with a top-notch bill including Prince Lincoln & Royal Rasses, Axx of Jahpostles, Anthony B. and Everton Blender.

Before we entered the festival area we could hear the heavy-sounding bass lines from way over in the parking lot. Once inside we realized we were just in time to capture Prince Lincoln (with the latest incarnation of the Royal Rasses) in the last part of a solid performance. What a joy it was to see this reggae veteran back on stage presenting classics ("Humanity") and brand new tunes ("Hear our cry"), which the crowd received with great respect and appreciation.

Then it was time for Axx of Jahpostles to take the stage in front of 10,000 or so people for what happened to be their first official performance in Europe. Typical for Axx of Jahpostles are their so-called "country style" harmonies, well-constructed songs and the energetic and powerful backing of the musicians. They fully succeeded in bringing forward all these ingredients. With their enthusiastic demeanor they encouraged the people in the audience to dance and sing along, entertaining them with songs like "All kinda fight", "Babylon glass house", "Play reggae", "Ghettos end", "Starlight", "Man with the hammer", "True lover", "We a nuh loafter", "Mi Gwan" and "Give thanks and praise". When the vocalists left stage the musicians of Axx of Jahpostles stayed in order to provide backing for the following two artists.

Young sensation Anthony B. was the first to step on stage. Dressed in a traditional Afrocentric light yellow robe, his visage topped by a comparing turban and carrying a black staff in his left hand he made an overwhelming impression and grabbed everyone's attention as he opened his set with "So many things". He jumped, pranced, danced across the stage - sometimes firing karate-like kicks in the air as if in some sort of ritual - on tunes like "Rumour", "One thing", "Swarm Me" (after telling the crowd that this song was banned in Jamaica for its lyrics), "Watch what you eat", "Raid di barn" and "Waan back" (on Gregory Isaacs' "Night nurse"-riddim). With facial expressions and sometimes wide-open eyes he made sure the audience was following right along with him. He talked to the crowd about Bob Marley's great efforts, impact and meaning for Jamaica which should be officially rewarded by putting his picture on the $ 1000 JA banknote, before he continued with the tribute song "Marley memories". In songs like "Cold feet", "Bun down Sodom" and "Fire pon Rome" he seemed so humble, but yet militantly strong in his messages. With his stunning and appealing performance, intensely leaning on rastafari teachings, Anthony B. satisfied his fans and certainly gained a lot of respect from others.

The final artist to take the stage was Everton Blender, by the Jamaican mc "Maestro" announced as one of the current messengers from Jamaica. So far Everton Blender put out two Star Trail albums which were well-received, not only by people involved in reggae business, but also by older roots fans as well as the youth. He went through favorites like "Piece a di blender", "Lift up your head", "Bob Marley", "Create a sound", "Family man", World corruption", "Ghetto people song" (a great song which got a really weak interpretation), "Blend dem", "Ghetto youths" and the accapella sung "Where do the children play". For the second time this year we witnessed a disappointing performance from a singer who delivers such great songs on disc. When his last tune slipped away into the night we were left behind with mixed feelings.

Teacher & Mr. T.

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