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Morgan Heritage/ Etana

Venue: 02 Academy, Oxford

Date: 4th May 2017

By Mark Devlin | 07 May 2017

In keeping with an event aimed largely at mature, grown folk at responsible stages in life, this top-quality reggae treat for the people of Oxford chose a start time of 7pm. Whereas a ragga/ dancehall/ D&B/ dubstep affair aimed at ‘da yout’ dem’ would doubtless have wrapped up at 3 or 4am, this one was all done by a highly civilised 11pm.

The mature complexion of the night was represented not only by the good-natured crowd in attendance, but in the music itself, heavy on the consciousness, and lacking in slack talk about guns and sex. Those wanting these elements were in the wrong place tonight.

Etana’s support slot came across as a headline show in its own right. The Jamaican/ US songstress, backed by an impressive band, evidently had her fanbase in the house, as songs such as ‘I Rise’, ‘Reggae’ and ‘a Better Tomorrow’ garnered knowing singalongs. Only ‘Roots' was missing from her most familiar pantheon. Reggae’s penchant for covers and re-interpretations of staple numbers was represented by her depictions of Dawn Penn’s ‘No No No’ and Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’. Etana handled the stage with all the relish and experience of a seasoned performer.

Things were nicely primed for the arrival of the Morgan Heritage collective, with the full current line-up in attendance. The crowd was already bubbling to familiar numbers like ‘Down By The River’ and ’Don’t Haffi Dread’ by the time frontman Peetah Morgan decided to hype up the energy levels by calling for a spiritual tribute to reggae music’s departed greats, such as Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown and Peter Tosh. No spliffs in the air, but plenty of lighters. A rendering of Sister Nancy’s ‘Bam Bam’ was also delivered. The Morgan frontman went on to detail the distinctions between Dancehall, and Reggae music, making it clear where his group’s own allegiences lie. Former B2K singer J-Boog was then wheeled out to perform a short medley of numbers with the group, adding an R&B twist to the proceedings.

As the crowd dispersed at the family and day job-friendly finish time, they left with message music ringing through their consciousness, all set to the kind of heavy bassline that only Reggae can truly deliver.

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