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London WC2 Astoria

His tender, sweet but strong, voice is, of course, one of the greatest ever to make its mark in any medium...

London WC2 Astoria

The beard may be grey now, the voice slinking into the shadows a little more than before but Winston Rodney, aka Burning Spear, has lost none of his mesmeric and impassioned live presence.

The recent death of Dennis Brown was a reminder of the cruel toll long since exacted on the leading lights of Jamaican music's golden epoch. So tonight, packed to bursting and sweat-bathed, the house is suffused with a mood both celebratory and admonitory, giving the Spear's songs of sufferance and emancipation an added poignancy.

His tender, sweet but strong, voice is, of course, one of the greatest ever to make its mark in any medium. As a showman he's deceptively relaxed, with a master's innate awareness of his special powers.

Suddenly he'll break free; his unique melting and shuddering delivery leading into dark, prayerful wondering or high-flown praise. More recent material like 'People Of The World' may lack the precision and depth of his vintage era, but ultimately the audience gets what it came for: 'Marcus Garvey', 'Man In The Hills', a delicious reading of his 1969 'Door Peeper' debut, a devastating 'Slavery Days'...

Throughout, the Spear is a figure of quiet resolve gently rocking and contorting his body, bringing forth a captivating sound while describing an epic journey of the spirit and the imagination. A Jamaican classic whose glory has not dimmed.

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