Steel Pulse’s reggae rhythms shake the Blue Note in Napa

BY MARIANA GARRICK

Reggae revolutionaries Steel Pulse rocked the Blue Note in Napa on Sunday night and took the crowd on a musical journey to where the roots of reggae began through their love of Jah, Rastafari and black liberation. Steel Pulse has been making politically charged music for over 45 years and their sold-out show proved how they still have the ability to pump up the crowd with their musical soliloquies.

When the doors opened, the line leading up to the Jam Cellars Ballroom snaked around the building and into a nearby parking lot. The already excited crowd danced their way into the venue and were met with the sounds and tunes of DJ Odin from the U.K.

Odin, a London native who now lives in California, warmed up the crowd with an all-vinyl reggae and dub set, playing everything from Half Pint to Dennis Brown to Alborosie and kept the show moving. His set lasted 95 minutes while many concert-goers moved to the rhythm and sipped on the venue’s list of spirits from the bar.

In their first tour since the pandemic, Steel Pulse played 14 songs from seven different albums, the most recent being Mass Manipulation which came out in 2019. The band opened with “Blues Dance Raid”, a song from their fourth LP True Democracy. The starting sounds of the electric guitar riffs, percussion, Selwyn Brown on a keyboard surrounded by Ethiopia’s flag and the voice of David Hinds shook the room. The song soon segued into “Worth His Weight in Gold (Rally Round)” where the two-man section of saxophonists wowed the crowd.

The 90-minute set consisted of fan favorites such as “Stop You Coming and Come” from their most recent album, “Your House” from the True Democracy album, a cover of Grateful Dead’s “Franklin Tower” from the 1996 album Fire On The Mountain: Reggae Celebrates The Grateful Dead, “Babylon Makes Rules” from 1979’s Tribute to the Martyrs and “Soldiers” from 1978’s Handsworth Revolution.

©PATRICK NIDDRIE

The crowd cheered as the first few notes of “Roller Skates” blared from the saxophones. The tune, from the 1984 album Earth Crisis, seemed to be the band’s most popular song of the night. As Hinds sang the chorus, “Life without Music,” the crowd roared “I Can’t Go” in response.

As the show went on, Tafari walked into the crowd of fans and even let some of them play his bass as lead guitarist David Elecciri Jr. went to the front of the stage to show off his skills. Each musician’s unique personality and passion for the art showed through their performance and concert-goers loved every minute of it. As a reminder of what Steel Pulse stands for, lead-vocalist Hinds reminded the audience to stand up against violence, racism and police brutality.

The concert closed out with “Steppin’ Out” from Earth Crisis. Though the show was nearly over, the song’s lyrics commanded the crowd to dance as they continued to enjoy the last of the gig. Each band member had a solo to showcase their talent and for the audience to appreciate their work before an ending mashup closed out the set.

On the way out of the venue, fans were already anticipating the next time the U.K. natives were going to be in town as DJ Odin played some final reggae hits. With an intimate two-story setting and stellar acoustics at the Blue Note, Steel Pulse is likely to host another sold out show in no time.

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