The Skatalites. They are an iconic band that have been around in some form since the mid 1950’s, and despite the majority of the original line having since passed away, the spirit of the Skatalites lives on. This current incarnation recently stopped off in Manchester on their current tour in support of their new ‘Platinum Ska’ album.
With no support act, it was a chance for the band to open up and play a full set of standards and classics that got the whole room moving. Starting with ‘Freedom’ and ‘Satin’ before introducing themselves, they settled into playing their interpretation of Monty Norman’s ‘James Bond Theme’. As the show progressed, it wasn’t too long before the “Queen of Ska” and sole surviving original member Doreen Shaffer arrived onstage to a rapturous reception to join the band for a glorious version of ‘My Boy Lollipop’, which got the biggest cheer of the night so far.
After that it was back to the instrumentals and the band played through a set of tracks, many of which formed the basis and evolution of ska, reggae and roots from across the years, along with some tales of working with other legends such as the Wailers. Each member was introduced individually and given a brief solo to show off their impressive talents in songs that at times devoted and became almost free form jams. By the time they got to play the classic ‘Guns Of Navarone’ the atmosphere was electric. It seemed like no time at all before the band were leaving the stage at the end of a very special performance. However, it wasn’t long before they returned for a brief encore, the highlight of which was a cover of the genre classic ‘Message To Rudy’ and before long the bands had left the stage again and left everyone going home with a huge smile on their face.
With a lot of bands, there is a discussion about a bands legitimacy when there are so few of the original line up left. With the Skatalites, even though the band has changed many times over the years, the current line up more than hold their own against such a prestigious past. A magnificent celebration of not just a band, but the scene they they helped create and mould into the worldwide stage it now has, from the tiny Kingston studios where they first played.