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live music review: easy star all-stars, the corner hotel, 30 december 2011

A band that would perform ‘absolutely, entirely for free’ simply ‘because they love it’, the Easy Star All-Stars sure know how to please a crowd. Returning to Australia for the first time since 2009, the band had a blast at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne on December 30th, 2011.

The All-Stars are best known for their reggae interpretations of classic albums like Radiohead’s OK Computer and the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. While in Australia they will be playing, in full, their re-vision of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon entitled Dub Side of the Moon. Released in 2003 it remains their most celebrated work by audiences across the globe and has cemented their place as one of the best reggae bands of all time. After catching their show at the Corner last night, it’s easy to see why.

Swinging their hips in time with the audience, the Easy Star All-Stars were the embodiment of joy on stage. The audience willingly reciprocated their big smiles and boisterous dance moves and the atmosphere was lively to say to say the least. The stunning vocals were led by Ras I Ray and worked with the melodies to unite the genres of reggae, rock and dub seemingly effortlessly.

Echoes danced through the speakers giving the effect of hundreds of voices singing as one. The audience was less a crowd than a community and messages of love for the audience poured from the lips of vocalist and bassist Ras I Ray who at one point declared that he ‘would like to take [us] home’. The performance was less like going to see a band than it was jamming with a few hundred people, which is to say, fantastic.

As well as performing the entirety of Dub Side of the Moon, the Easy Star All-Stars brought out a few crowd favourites from previous albums. Perhaps the most popular of these were the Beatles ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’ and Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ both of which were thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.

Also a crowd pleaser was the guest vocalist who appeared only intermittently throughout the night. Of all on stage he was the most charismatic, consistently jumping up and down, doing scissor kicks and holding his hand to his ear to mockingly berate the audience. The energy in the room visibly rose every time he joined the others and he was a great asset to the group.

Living proof that “ganja is good” the performance by the Easy Star All-Stars was just as relaxing as it was beat bouncingly alive. The melodies were sweet and the lyrics were well woven to create perfect harmonies. Decked out in African sweatbands and colourful clothes, both the band and crowd had a night to remember.

The Easy Star All Stars will be continuing their tour tonight with their performance at the Falls Festival in Tasmania. If you miss that one you can also catch them at The Factory in Sydney on January 4 or The Zoo in Brisbane on January 5. Highly recommended.

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