The night of August 7th is cooling off, but the atmosphere in The Rainbow warms, like a lazy summer night should, as people drift in, greeting friends and exchanging small talk while the final touches to the stage and sound mingle with their conversations. The mood is relaxed, laid-back, like the headline band they have come to see, The Human Rights, one of the finest groups from the Toronto Reggae scene.
Attention is drawn toward the spotlight lit forest of amps and instruments as Ottawa duo Riishi Von Rex and Michel Delage step on stage to open the show. Michel sets himself behind the drums as Riishi, a petite yet powerful singer/songwriter/guitarist, adjusts the microphone to a better position. The distorted bent opening notes that lead into her hard-driving rocker, Enough, set the tone for the night – rock out and dance. After a few more songs from this soulful gypsy artist, including Baba Yaga (…my favourite), bassist Andrew Bryant joins Riishi and Michel for Cartoon Violence and her debut cd title song, Shed Your Helmet, to round out their set.
Soul/Funk/Pop band Old Stereo, also from Ottawa, pump the crowd up next with That Place (…from their latest cd) and Crossed the Line (…from their first EP) before two guest MC’s, The Subtarranians, perform a couple of righteous raps with the band. Philippe, Shaun, Andrew, and Michel then blew into the funky pulsing Angel and end on a soul/jazz note with the choppy groove of the title track from their newest release, What It’s All About, leaving the crowd wanting more.
And more they get after a second short break when The Human Rights announce their presence with a mixed medley that leads into the Mykal Rose and Treson tune, Life On The Rocks…
Although you bombed my beloved city to pieces
And your spies of war infiltrate our daily lives
And you starve the people through economical sanctions
Somehow we survived… Resilient life
Life on the rocks (oh yeah)
Clinging onto whatever grows yeah
Life on the rocks
When you’ve got to survive
Life on the rocks (oh yeah)
Steady now children take it easy
Life on the rocks.. yeah
Throughout the night, the air is thick with the deep opiate bass and solid inspirative beats moving the crowd like the waves of one sea with the shifting of rhythms, at times swaying and weaving, at times boyant and animated, united in the warm breezes of Reggae. Riding these waves and driving the soul of their music are the lyrical chants of Friendlyness and Tréson‘s powerfully soulful vocals singing and speaking of oppression, freedom, Rastafari, marijuana, and their namesake – human rights. Check out the video section on their website.
This night, one experiences The Human Rights‘ infusion of their seven years of collective stylings into renditions of potent Reggae songs such as Natty Rebel by toasting legend U-Roy (the Originator) and Bob Marley‘s Babylon Feel Dis One and Fussing And Fighting.
Their own compositions are no less powerful. Numbers we hear as the show intensifies include Take A Stance and More Peace We Want which talk directly to all people, regardless of their cultural or racial histories and boundaries, that Reggae, with its infectious rhythm and deep bass, traverses effortlessly. Other tunes are more personal, such as the nostalgic upbeat Old School Track, which wishes it could be “…switched back to the old school track…” and Ganjaman, “…dedicated to our love of the marijuana…”.
So dynamic was the flow of love and energy between the band and audience that the band decided that the encore (…which they couldn’t say ‘no’ to) should not be just one song, but two… so they broke into the bouncy toe-tappin’ Ganjaman and ended the show with the energetic weighty One Thing from their same-titled first album. This night of music and love is part of the bands’ tour in support of their latest single Lion Heart, which is off of their second LP that The Human Rights is set to release soon.
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