It’s difficult to cover a Beatles’ song well. Wet Wet Wet’s ‘Yesterday’, No Doubt’s ‘Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da’ and Aerosmith’s ‘Come Together’ are some of the worst aural experiences you are ever likely to encounter. Similarly, anyone who witnessed (endured) Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe musical can attest that it’s probably that Beatles songs are best left alone. Easy Star All Stars however seem blissfully unaware of this. They arrive in Dublin to promote their own unique take onone of the fab four’s most heralded album in the shape of Easy Star Lonely Hearts Dub Band. This Reggae/Dub remake was the first Reggae album to enter the U.S. Billboard top 200 in over two years and has be lauded by the musical press both sides of the Atlantic. In the live setting however, this iconic work seems to weaken the Easy Star experience.
Kicking things off with two tracks from their 2008 EP Until That Day, the only body of work from the band that they have themselves penned, it appeared that Easy Star were in the mood to remove themselves from the shackles of their ‘cover band’ label. Perhaps realising these average tracks were failing to motivate the crowd the band move towards more familiar territory. ‘Sgt. Peppers…’ brings the crowd to their feet. This downtempo, off-the-beat rendition is one of the few Beatles songs that seems to have successfully made the transition to Reggae. ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ results in the first mass singalong of the evening which impresses bass-player Ras I Ray so much that he can no longer contain his smile. That said, it is about as Reggae as Marley & Me.
‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ is musically sound – if somewhat infantile, but by it’s very nature this song cannot be anything but British. It’s hard to believe that anyone with a Jamaican accent would truly pine to spend their summers in the Isle of Wight really, and resultantly this performance if anything, highlights the difficultly producer Michael Goldwasser must have encountered when he attempted to transform every track from this album into a Reggae/Dub translation. This was never a problem with the more ambiguous lyrics of Pink Floyd or Radiohead, but here when topics are as obvious as fixing a hole or, well, being sixty-four are tackled Easy Star’s Reggae credentials wane. Towards the end of the song, a game of hide-and-seek which sees bass-player Ras turn up in the crowd is as cheesy as it is fun. But it is not cool.
‘Paranoid Android’ sees the band stray from mop-top classics and back toward their a usual suave nature we have come to know them for, but it is a triad of Pink Floyd hits that impress the Academy most tonight. An impressive and lengthy drum intro leads into the delicately handled ‘Breathe’, while ‘Time’ receives the biggest reception of the night, with chants of ‘Time is dah masta’ echoing long after the band bring this thumping version to a close. Whe Tamar Kali opened her mouth the crowd fell silent. ‘Great Gig In the Sky’ was a performance to remember. She seemingly effortlessly tackled the duties of this song with gusto. Her voice took on a life of it’s own unaccompanied and a stunned crowd showed their appreciation upon lifting their collective jaws from the floor.
Ras wanted to keep it “Bubblin’ in Dub-e-lin”, yet ‘Lovely Rita’ was not the manner in which to do so. It’s strangely altered tempo caught some of the more eager punters off guard and lyrical ad libs from Dollarman such as “Whenna ya free to smoke a joint with me?” caused more than a few eyes to turn heaven-wards. His rapping became more hilarious as he progressed throughout the evening, ‘spitting out lyrics’ and when none would come to hand, he replaced them with daft Crazy-Frog like sound effects. ‘Electioneering’ clawed back some dignity before the inevitable encore. Solid performances of ‘A Day in The Life’ and ‘Karma Police’ caused the crowd to fruitlessly bay for more.
However there are many cracks in what was once a near flawless Easy Star show – all of them Liverpudlian shaped. It’s easy to fix such holes, but one can’t help but wonder where they will go now. The success they’ve had with Radiodread and Dub Side of the Moon will become more difficult to emulate and on the basis of tonight performances their personal material will not sell out venues such as the Academy. That said it is still an entertaining show, even if some parts entertain in a manner unintended by Easy Star. But it is difficult to cover a Beatles song well…