Despite the fact that it was a Monday night of a long weekend, the Commodore was fullish, if not packed to capacity, showing the appeal of the legendary Dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson and his backing band, fronted by bassist Dennis Bovell.
Johnson looked and sounded exactly the way I imagined him; that is, like all pictures I’ve ever seen and all the albums I’ve ever heard—his voice completely rhythmic and heavy as a bass drop. Bovell provided an interesting figure to watch as he grimaced his way through the set as Johnson busted out hits spanning his entire career of some 20 odd years, all of them, of course, politically and socially charged. His poems dealt with racial issues in England, police brutality, somewhat current Eastern European events and society’s loss of leisure time. There were some notable tunes missing in my opinion, however, when the crowd tried to interact with him by shouting out a desired track, Johnson made a point of informing us that he would decide which poems he would deliver. This concert was definitely a sermon, delivered by a master, no doubt, but with the audience kept at a distance—possibly because Johnson wanted to maintain a dignified and detached air, but maybe because he’s simply unhappy with touring.