Jimmy Cliff, Brighton Dome, review: There’s a ska light that never goes out

Cliff’s high-voltage charisma is undimmed at 67

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The Independent Culture

“The first time a lot of you heard of reggae music,” Jimmy Cliff muses, “may have been in a movie starring I-man...” His charismatic role in the 1972 film The Harder They Come showed the Jamaica this new sound sprang from to the world, and it was Cliff that Island Records wanted to make its first global star; when he turned away from Island and reggae, Bob Marley got the gig.

Cliff’s high-voltage charisma is undimmed at 67, and the big, generation-spanning Brighton crowd is hugely up for it as he follows “Rivers of Babylon” with “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, starting at the peak most people finish with.

In silver-grey tunic and trousers, Cliff’s fierce, high-stepping skanks of past years have been mostly replaced by more playfully expressive poses.

There are weaker songs as he spans the career between The Harder They Come and 2012’s strong album Rebirth but, conducted through Cliff tonight, most become reviving shots of positive energy.

Brass and backing singers emphasise the soul music he began with, but he finishes with the crowd swaying to ska and roots reggae. Afterwards, they spill on to the street, elated.