Sean Paul

By Masta G

On Monday night a packed Brixton Academy saw Sean Paul confirm his status as the Robbie Williams of dancehall. In musical terms the comparison is unfair but in view of his phenomenally energetic stage show and seemingly incessant appeals for the appreciation of the laydeez, it doesn't seem inappropriate.

Supporting the hardest working man in Jamaican music was hip hop producer of the moment Mark Ronson, who kept the crowd entertained with a mostly old skool/party hip hop set, underlining the dancehall/hip hop crossover which is coming on so strong right now. A ten-minute selection of dancehall classics went down well but nothing caused as much commotion as his repeated plays of Elephant Man's ubiquitous Pon De River. Ronson kept things bubbling but the reception given to the star of the show was truly intense as he emerged from the dry ice filled darkness and launched into his hit Gimme The Light.

Catering for the demands of the stadium rock format, the show had a live band, supporting MCs and suitably scantily attired backing dancers. None of these, however, detracted from the enthusiastic stage presence of the dutty rocker himself, who leaped and ran around the stage like a man possessed. His live wire performance was all the more impressive for the fact that most of the riddims were fused into each other sound system style, rather than being presented as separate songs.

While the crisp digital production which gives ragga its distinctive sound was slightly lost amid the live instrumentation, the band proved their worth with a heavy roots/lovers section in the middle of the show. The new tunes which they showcased demonstrated the impact of the eastern-influenced riddims which have been coming out of Jamaica recently as well as preserving the R'n'B/hip hop vibe which has been central to Sean Paul's commercial success. It sounds like there are going to be plenty more hit singles now that he's fully milked the cash cow that was 'dutty rock'.

It was great to hear the evergreen Infiltrate, though a version of the classic Peter Tosh track Stepping Razor and one of Uptown Top Ranking seemed to fall on deaf ears, confirming that you don't need to be into reggae to be into Sean Paul. He finished his set with an inspired mash up of Get Busy and Like Glue, giving his audience what they wanted rather than the reggae history lesson he seemed to feel they needed. While it's heartening to see Jamaican music crossing over into the mainstream (and there was no shortage of teeny boppers at the Academy) in a way that might prompt people to look further into the island's folk music, San Paul's broad and potentially growing appeal seems to transcend the tradition which he was so keen to acknowledge.
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