“The Del Mar Racetrack is a nonsmoking venue” the announcer repeated as a crowd of several thousand gathered not so much for the horses as for the reggae show afterwards. Nevertheless, through a fogbank of smoke, those in attendance were treated to an equally smoking performance by 62-year-old reggae singer Jimmy Cliff, whose strong, clear voice and shuffling feet remained youthful throughout his mix of classics and covers.
Cliff and his well-rehearsed band delivered rousing versions of “The Harder They Come” and “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” sing-a-long covers “I Can See Clearly Now” and “Wild World,” a soul-stirring “Many Rivers to Cross,” and tender acoustic versions of “Bongoman” and “Rivers of Babylon.”
Cliff opened for the lesser-known Matisyahu, supposedly because tenets of his Hasidic faith preclude performance before sundown. However, Matisyahu's later appearance provided a contrast from classic roots reggae to a modern progression of the genre. The singer incorporated techno and rock flavors with mixed results, but his a capella beat-box intro into his signature “King Without a Crown” was innovative, well-executed, and well-recieved. Together, the two artists presented a reggae blend of past, present, and future, just the thing for so many reggae-starved fairground patrons willing to tolerate the smoke.
- Concert: Jimmy Cliff and Matisyahu
- Date: August 14
- Venue: Del Mar Racetrack
- Seats: trees, stage right