In The Flesh 

Burning Spear
Majestic Theatre
Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The good times started well before roots reggae master Burning Spear appeared on a stormy night at the Majestic Theatre. A vibrant set from 15-piece Detroit ensemble Odu Afrobeat Orchestra quickly raised the collective body heat of the multi-culti crowd, so that by the time the Burning Band plugged in and started jamming, the crowd was wet with more sweat than rain. What everyone was anticipating came soon enough — Winston Rodney, the white-bearded, grandfatherly figure known as Burning Spear since his first sessions at Kingston's famed Studio One in 1969. Now approaching 60, Rodney still growls in anger at oppressors of the poor, and soars on wings of love for Jah Almighty. He stood motionless for most of the night, pressing his red, green and yellow mic against his mouth for classic late-'70s material like "Calling Rastafari" and "Marcus Garvey." But his music isn't really about individual tunes. It's about groove. It's about living the music.

The band included a drummer, two guitarists, a bass player, a keyboardist, and a three-man horn section, as well as old Burning Spear on percussion, and once they really kicked in, the show induced a trance-like state. The dancing never quit, and when the crowd finally began streaming onto Woodward Avenue after the nearly three-hour set, it was with a hop in their step and grins on their faces. Real, vital roots reggae has that effect, even in the pouring rain.

Walter Wasacz writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to

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