Now almost exactly 30 years on from when he was absolutely pivotal to reggae's breakthrough into white consciousness, it was utterly thrilling and a little sad to see the 55-year-old Jimmy Cliff in Edinburgh's small and sweaty Liquid Rooms. The venue, admittedly, was packed to the gunnels, but he could have been a contender for mega stardom and stadiums. In fact, in 1973 he was; alongside his Island Records label mate, Bob Marley, Cliff was the first to convert Kingston's, ghetto music into global currency with the soundtrack to Jamaica's first, and best, indigenous feature film, The Harder They Come.
Cliff also starred in the movie and although he looks a little grizzled these days, sporting a piratical purple beret and bandana, you can still glimpse the whippet-thin gun-toting rude boy in Perry Henzell's socio-realist drama. The film was far from perfect, but said all there was to say about Jamaica then; the corruption and the poverty, the shanty towns in the heat and the desperation. Body-shaking, criminally infectious reggae was at the heart of the film and the soundtrack was a quintessential collection, with Cliff contributing four songs, all classics. Then, with a seminal album and film - not to mention a remarkable acting debut - in his pocket, he seemed to falter and fade in the long shadow of Marley the blessed, appearing only sporadically ever since.
Slipping quietly back on to the tour circuit, this is Cliff revitalised with a new eclectic album, Fantastic Plastic People, produced by Dave Stewart. But let's face it, it was memories of The Harder They Come that brought us here to see the man who briefly flirted with global stardom on the back of crossover hits such as "Many Rivers to Cross" and "You Can Get it if You Really Want".
And the chugging, pumping ska groove of that track opens the show, still able to move an entire room into instantaneous dancing frenzy. From the glorious opening line, sung in Cliff's high, sweet tenor, even the most staid Edinburghers are jumping. The amazing thing is the songs haven't aged, sounding fresh and vital, with Cliff jiving, spinning and high-stepping like a 19-year-old, lost in the sheer, rhythmic joy of it all.
From that exhilarating start, it was clear this was no lazy medley of hits but an exhilarating revival of the spirit of pop reggae. The seven-piece band are a serious outfit complete with blaring horns and thunderous bass as Cliff literally jogs into "Reggae Man", feeding into "War in Jerusalem", which expands into a massive dub.
But even the most ardent Cliff fan would cringe at the embarrassingly naive lyrics of, "Terror", Cliff's strangely jingoistic take on the twin towers attack. This from one of reggae's great lyricists, who spoke of poverty and oppression in the language of pure pop and wrote what Bob Dylan himself declared the greatest protest song ever, "Vietnam", which Cliff sings tonight with genuine passion.
Sadly, akin to Dylan, the new material is muffled and clunky beside the urgency of his early songs, and it is a relief when Cliff bursts into "Many Rivers to Cross", still able to carry the heart-stopping melody. Near the end, showing no signs of flagging, Cliff delivers "The Harder They Come", sending an electrifying jolt through a crowd already drenched with sweat and wreathed in smiles.
OK, it was night of greatest hits from a man who hasn't come close to any Top 40 in well over a decade. But what hits they are, and with Cliff re-energised and in spectacular voice, this was the one of the most intoxicating concerts of the year so far.
Jimmy Cliff plays the Sheffield Leadmill tonight; Brighton Concorde 2 tomorrow; Bristol Academy on Monday; Shepherd's Bush Empire, London on 25 June and Glastonbury Festival on 28 JuneReuse content