Date: February 23, 2013
Venue: Palladium Ballroom
City: Dallas, TX
Review by Josh Wiggins
Photos by Crystal Prather
Often, when I attend concerts, I wonder what it was about the band's music that brought all these people out to see them perform their craft in a live setting. Where did they first hear the music that made a lasting impression on them? Was the introduction made by a friend, at a party, or maybe some out-of-the-way bar while on vacation? Do these people actually appreciate the music or are they just in the building because their friends talked them into it?
Yes, I know these are seemingly juvenile questions two kids would argue about as they staked their claim to who discovered a band first. In this particular case, the trophy we're talking about is the reggae-infused, Rebelution. Since the release of their first full-length album in 2007, Courage to Grow, Rebelution has become one of the top touring bands in the country. That's no small feat either, considering this band is as far removed from the island nation that's the home of the music itself, Jamaica. That geography was not lost on this crowd.
Needless to say, the intrigue factor surrounding this group was registering around "ten" as I entered the Palladium Ballroom. It was matched only by my intense interest to see what kind of audience was going to show up for the show. Entering the cavernous facility, you felt an air of excitement permeating the air. There were lines of fans everywhere; in front of the bars, the bathrooms and even the concession area. Merchandise was selling briskly. There was a tremendous amount of teens and 20-something's in the crowd. And yes, there were the older, more sophisticated reggae enthusiasts like myself. You couldn't have imagined a more eclectic gathering of people had you not seen it for yourself. The only thing everyone had in common was Rebelution. That's all that really mattered.
The opening act J Boog & Hot Rain featured Kiwini Vaitai and Siaosi. They came out strong and made a musical statement this audience wouldn't soon forget. J Boog's music has grown in popularity the past couple of years. They are purveyors of 'Jawaiian' music, which is a combination of Jamaican reggae and traditional Hawaiian music that uses catchy hooks and upbeat melodies to celebrate island life and convey positive vibes. J Boog clearly created the right atmosphere with their street style approach to reggae that set the tone for what was soon to occur.
Rebelution's arrival on stage was greeted with thunderous approval. For nearly two hours, the band had this place swaying to and fro. Singer Eric Rachmany had full command of the stage, as well as the fans, taking them from one magical moment to the next. Besides his vocal duties, the musician handles the guitar with equal aplomb. The California native also belts out songs in a unique vocal style that really is unmatched by his reggae peers. All the while, he's effortlessly taking the band through its paces while keeping the audience fully engaged. That's not an easy task no matter what type of music you play.
Again, this band prides itself in fully involving the audience with the action that's taking place on stage. Active crowd participation in the form of dancing and singing are the end results of this 'rebelution'.
This Santa Barbara outfit (and yes, it is kind of strange to see a California band recognized as a spirited, revolutionary reggae act), performed several tunes off the aforementioned Courage to Grow, including "Green to Black" and "Attention Span." The audience really became animated when the group launched into "Safe and Sound." There wasn't a stationary body in the building to be found as the band performed their classic.
The first family of reggae is obviously named Marley. Leave it to Rebelution to gain street cred with their own Marley - Williams that is - the group's bass player. His delivery was flawless, and his interaction with drummer Wes Finley had this audience moving. At times, these two musicians seemed to be lost in their own world with intense jams on music from the group's 2009 release, Bright Side of Life. Key tracks performed included the title track, "Lazy Afternoon" and "Suffering." When the band broke into "Outta Control", it pretty much characterized those assembled at the Palladium.
There is a defining characteristic these days that's beginning separate and define today's reggae bands. It's the use of horn instruments. Tonight, touring musician Khris Royal and his saxophone were expertly incorporated into the Rebelution sound. His seamless interpretations of the group's music changed the dynamics of the material he wailed on, and really drew this crowd deeper into the songs. Royal had such a commanding stage presence, bodies never stopped moving while he performed. It was also extremely difficult to take your eyes off him his musicianship was that involved.
Over the past ten years, Rebelution has managed to take reggae music to new heights. The music is no longer defined by the island purveyors of the genre itself. Thirty years after Bob Marley drew his last breath, four musicians in Southern California drew there's. It's been a non-stop journey ever since.
Rebelution represents a new way of doing business in the world of reggae. These skilled musicians have breathed new life into this art that for too long was simply defined by whatever sounds came out of Jamaica. Not anymore. Reggae is a universal language no matter who is carrying the torch. This band is delivering the message where arguably no previous act has gone before. For that, I'll give them a hearty "Ya mon!"