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Melodic Tunes Carry Message Reggae Band Black Uhuru Plays To A Small Crowd

Joe Ehrbar Correspondent

Black Uhuru Sunday, Oct. 1, at the Masonic Temple

An 8:30 p.m., 21-and-over, one-band concert on a Sunday night wasn’t the brightest of ideas.

In Spokane, people just don’t go out on Sunday nights.

The Black Uhuru concert at the Masonic Temple once again confirmed this. At the concert’s start, the hall was virtually empty.

The thin attendance, however, didn’t seem to disturb Black Uhuru much.

The Jamaican band played to the crowd - which continued to grow throughout the late evening - for nearly three hours.

Most of Black Uhuru’s set was built with songs from its four most-recent albums “Strongg,” “Mystical Truth,” “Now” and “Iron Storm.”

Even though Duckie Simpson, the definitive member who wasn’t present, sang a chunk of the material on the last four albums, singers Don Carlos and Garth Dennis sang his songs well.

Carlos, who sang lead on most of the songs, was largely responsible for this. His vocals clearly resemble Simpson’s as well those of former Black Uhuru vocalists Junior Reid and Michael Rose.

Though the band mostly refrained from performing songs recorded when Carlos and Dennis weren’t in the band, the ones it did do, like Rose’s “What Is Life,” seemed authentic.

Another reason Black Uhuru’s performance was so good was the addition of a female back-up singer. It made for a number of affecting songs, such as “Time, Material and Space.” In years past, Black Uhuru always sounded strongest when there was a woman (Puma Jones or Olafunke) smoothing out the band’s harmonies.

Other highlights included the hooky “Army Band,” the softly played Peter Gabriel song “Mercy Street” and the rootsy rendition of “Blame It On The Rastaman.”

As shown on Sunday, Black Uhuru rates as one of reggae’s most powerful bands because it composes contagious, melodic and rootsy music with hard-hitting social messages. So while people groove along with the foundation-rumbling bass line, they’re also singing “The system designed to kill off the poor/This must be genocide for sure.”

Black Uhuru also deserves credit for attracting a crowd on a Sunday night - by the concert’s end, the audience stood at a couple of hundred.

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