Saturday, November 13, 2010

Roy Ellis, Mr Symarip Oakland Show Review by Colin Nasseri

Editors note: We had intended to write a review of this historic show for the blog, but we were contacted by Colin Nasseri asking if a review had been submitted to which we replied "No, but if you'd like to submit one feel free". A few days later Colin submitted the below review and we are proud to present his review to our readers. Great job Colin! Massive respect & many thanks to you! As a side note we encourage members of our community to feel free to take part in this blog whether its promoting your shows, submitting music & show reviews, whatever, just as long as the subject matter deals with Reggae Oldies & Revival Sounds. The following review is a great example of what we are talking about.

Moonstomping At The Oakland Metro Opera House

I want all you skinheads

to get up on your feet

Put your braces together and your boots on your feet

And give me some of that old moonstomping

---Symarip, 1969

It's a safe bet that nearly every skinhead, rude boy, mod or reggae fanatic has heard, chanted along with, imitated or quoted the above lines at some point in their lives. To many, Symarip's classic "Skinhead Moonstomp" song (and album of the same name) is an all time favorite that exists only in recorded format, most fans (myself included) perishing the thought of ever witnessing any of Symarip's near-sacred tracks performed live on stage. What an amazing treat to the lucky few who entered the Oakland Metro Opera House on October 30, 2010, when Roy Ellis, lead singer and songwriter of Symarip, took the stage for a 19-song set revisiting his hallowed back catalog and several recently recorded outings. Backed admirably by the solid Sand Dollar Sound, and billing himself under his recent recording name, Mr. Symarip, Ellis kicked off a spirited show that drew out the dedicated from all corners of the country. This date was a rare treat indeed. Ellis has made very few US appearances, usually working the European festival circuit; this fact was made abundantly clear by the number of times I overheard the comment, "I can't believe he's playing here!"

Kicking off with "Wang Yu," a track from his last full length release, The Skinheads Dem A Come, Ellis took the band through their paces, touching on a few of the strongest songs on the album (including the extremely catchy title track) before stepping back in time for a breathtaking "Must Catch A Train," with horns reproduced note-perfectly by the brass section, which featured a guesting trumpeter, Rick Kendrick, from the Bay Area's own soul outfit, The Inciters.

Ellis next rolled into "Chicken Merry," which was rendered faithfully, right down to the "clucking hen" guitar parts. This attention to sound detail became more evident as the show went on. Ellis was determined that each track was performed exactly as he required. "Wait, wait. Rewind!" he would announce a few bars into a song. "Faster, please." The band would kick in at a faster pace, and the songs would continue. Perfectionism aside, there was still room for fluidity. At one point Ellis invited each brass player a chance to solo, which they did marvelously, with only one player politely declining.

Quality musicianship wasn't the only showmanship to grace the stage. Ellis, who must be in his 60's (an exact age is difficult to come by on internet searches), performed with the energy of a 20 year old, breaking into some acrobatic shoulder rolls across the stage. His energy level never diminished, and he truly came across as a man who loves his fans and his work.

The soulful trio of "Stay With Him," "You're Mine" and "Try Me Best" provided a bit of a breather for the man and the crowd before Ellis brought on stage a large box of bananas to hand out to those in need of a snack during--of course--the famed "Banana" song (recently covered by The Aggrolites on the kid favorite TV show, Yo Gabba Gabba, as a testament to its enduring power to entertain).

The final part of the set was performed exactly as seen on youtube clips from around the world: ladies en masse invited on stage to dance during "Skinhead Girl," probably Symarip's second best known track, ("No, just the girls!" Ellis clarified for two skinhead gentlemen who got up with the group). The room was alight with cameras and phones held aloft by the males left in the audience, ready to capture this scene.

"Skinhead Girl" won rapturous applause and was followed by an invite for the fellas immediately afterwards. A hearty cluster of men bounded on stage for their anthem, "Skinhead Moonstomp." "Careful, stand back a bit, I'm an old guy," Ellis requested as he arranged the group for the song. Skinhead cameraderie was at its peak for this number, and a concert hall full of baritone sing along "yeah, yeah, yeah's" was pure Spirit of '69 glory.

A final trip down memory lane, in the form of "These Boots Were Made For Stomping," and the night was at a close. Mr. Symarip saw his fans off with a rendition of his latest 7" single, "Shine Shine Shine."

And shine he did. Brilliantly.

by Colin Nasseri

Set list photo: Taurino Tadeo


soundsofthepast said...

good stuff!!
greetings from spain,

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