JIMMY Cliff is a reggae giant. Without compromising his integrity, he was at the forefront of bringing Jamaican music to the masses by seamlessly blending it with pop and soul. He crossed over but never sold out.
Jimmy Cliff, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow *****
Now aged 70, he was in tremendous voice during this impossibly uplifting open-air show, his pipes only showing signs of wear on the gospel-tinged Many Rivers to Cross and his cover of Cat Stevens’ Wild World. Nevertheless, that sweetly soulful rasp is still a powerful instrument.
Backed by an impeccable yet distinctly non-cabaret eight-piece band, he sang inspirational rings around classics such as The Harder They Come and Let Your Yeah Be Yeah. His call and response routines with the crowd were joyous.
Reportedly once described by Bob Dylan as the greatest war protest song ever written, Vietnam is a prime example of a buoyant piece of music subverted by a sombre lyric. Its sadly timeless message was reinforced when Cliff made topical references to Syria and Afghanistan. The unpretentious power of him repeatedly pleading “We’ve got to stop the war now” almost brought tears to my eyes.
Poetic similes and metaphors are all very well, but sometimes a straightforward cry from the heart carries more emotional weight.
Despite the dark, furrowed clouds that occasionally crowd his work, Cliff is basically a defiant optimist. He’s a sincere beacon of hope, a radiant force for good. When Jimmy Cliff sings of a wonderful world full of beautiful people, you believe it.