The Skatalites @ BB Kings, NYC

Live Reviews | Oct 8th, 2003

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Date: Wednesday, October 8th, 2003
Venue: BB Kings, NYC

I have one question for the NY area ska fans – WHERE WERE YOU LAST NIGHT? The show at the Knitting Factory in the spring was packed. Last night there were under 200 people in a club that probably holds a thousand. And some of those were Manhattanite couples who wandered in and unwittingly got a crash course in old school Jamaican ska/reggae/rocksteady for the mere price of 15 clams. Good for them. But enough of that. First of all, the sound at BB King’s ( is impeccable. I highly suggest you catch a show there (perhaps The Wailers on 10/31 and 11/1.)

When the King himself plays there it’s too packed to be much fun, but the Skatalites and 200 people makes for an intimate event. The floor was open for skanking and plenty of people, young and old, took advantage. And the Skatalites were taking requests, as they love to please a good crowd. The set was full of their standards – Rock Fort Rock, Man in the Street, Occupation, Guns of Navarone, Ska Ba, Phoenix City, El Pussycat, etc. They’ve also added a great cover of the Beatles’ “You Should’ve Known Better” to their repertoire. Around the middle of the set they brought in Lloyd Knibb’s (original and current drummer) son Dion Knibb to lay down the vocals on some rocksteady tunes like Sugar Sugar and a few others. Dion also returned later for Simmer Down, a classic originally recorded with some guy named Bob Marley on vocals. The younger Knibb definitely does these songs justice, but then I guess it’s in the genes.

(Doreen Shaffer, the original vocalist, is recovering from knee surgery but is expected to join the boys next year on the 40th anniversary tour.) The Jamaican legends do not disappoint when taking the stage. The three original members – Lloyd Brevett (bass), Lloyd Knibb (drums), and Lester Sterling (sax) are joined mostly by younger musicians who definitely hold their own. The entire horn section belted out solos all night to the cheers of the crowd.

Brevett’s sometimes audible, always enjoyable chatter between songs brings you right back to Kingston – “Cha, cha, cha, cha. Dis wun ritten in Jah-maica by de Skatalites in de sixties. Dis wun called de Ska Ba!” “Cha, cha, cha, cha. On dis wun da Skatalites took da music frum da movie an put et to da ska. Dis wun called de Gons uf Nafaro-o-o-one!” You gotta love it. I wish I could talk like that.

Bottom line – catch these guys when they come to your town. If they don’t come to your town, take a road trip or jump on a plane. Swim if you have to, they are worth it.


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