Jamaican reggae legend Burning Spear and his Burning Band dropped into The Bottleneck Tuesday for a night of roots rock and rhythm.
The 60-something Spear (born Winston Rodney) has been touring the world, presenting his politically charged brand of reggae to enthusiastic crowds, for more than 30 years. All that experience paid off handsomely Tuesday.
After a sublime opening set of toasting and turntable reggae by a local crew, Spear and company hit the stage around 10:30 p.m., putting on a show that enraptured the audience for nearly two hours. Backed by the agile Burning Band (a five-star collective of eight musicians playing drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and horns), Spear wailed away at the microphone and pounded the congas as if lost in a trance.
Blending Burning Spear classics alongside new material from his 34th release the Grammy Award-winning "Calling Rastafari" Spear kept the music flowing nonstop, rarely pausing between numbers to take a breath or interact with the crowd.
Spear's low-key demeanor and lack of trite "Yah, mon" clichmeant the emphasis was placed squarely upon the shoulders of the band's king-size jams.
The capacity audience couldn't have been more appreciative they came to dance, and dance they did, grooving to the band's ocean-size sound until a layer of steam, sweat and smoke engulfed the front of the stage. After one particularly potent number, the response was so loud and joyous, one might be led to think he was attending an arena-size show.
Burning Spear, who played Liberty Hall a few years back, is an amazing treat to see in a small club like The Bottleneck. There are so few legitimate reggae legends performing anywhere in the world these days and having Spear play Lawrence was one of the great musical coups in recent times.
The intensity of Spear's performance, the quality of the musicians backing him and the emphasis on groove-worthy tunes made Tuesday's show one of the best of the year.