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Warrior King in San Francisco

Warrior King in San Francisco

Warrior King in San Francisco

By on - Photos by Jessica Dore - Comment

Warrior King celebrated the 118th birthday of Haile Selassie I in San Francisco with songs from three albums spanning the past decade, plus bits of what's to come from his anticipated next release.


Due to a combination of the Bay Area’s flourishing reggae scene and the development of new social media, I caught the forecast from WBLK selector DJ Jacques via facebook that Warrior King was on the loose, boasting “vibes for days” during soundcheck in Santa Rosa the night before his San Francisco show. On a tour appropriately titled “California Love,” the roots and culture singer, like many other touring reggae artists, came through California for a brief stint of sell-offs from L.A. to the Bay (but in reverse).

At San Francisco’s Rockit Room, the crowd built steadily, easy rocking through opening act Black Judah until giving the main attraction a toasty warm welcome fit for, well…A king.

And who better than the king to perform for us on such a very special day, July 23, the birthday of Haile Selassie I. There were no cake and candles or elephant rides, but certainly thoughts of Freedom from Hunger and majestic pet lions abound. There was also a special version of the popular earthstrong song dubbed Happy Birthday Rastafari. Warrior King even ran through an intense recitation of the Emperor’s famed words from his address to the United Nations in 1963, made mainstream by Bob Marley’s song War.

“Reggae music comes from Rastafari. Reggae music is supposed to be about positivity and uplifting, not about sex, guns and that. That’s not what real reggae is all about. Reggae is uplifting, educational music, it’s like medicine,” said Warrior King in a phone interview the next day.

At the start of all the biggest songs like Never Go Where Pagans Go, Virtuous Woman, and even Education is Key, the band charged in with an introductory teaser followed by an inevitable stop, rewind and re-launch. When nearly all the tunes you can cram into an hour-long set are colossal, the desire to pull up and rewind each and all is understandable, but perhaps not so necessary.

The Reggae City Band, a locally based crew who’ve backed the likes of Everton Blender and Michael Rose, were appreciated and pretty tight, feeding off the energy of the front man of the night who did everything but jumping jacks to keep the energy going. Not that he had to, as like I mentioned, nearly every song he ran infected the crowd with the boom tune syndrome; that unspoken pick-it-up that freshens up the vibes, far and wide. (For more on “boom tune syndrome” see also: My typically mild-mannered Trini friend that screamed at the top of his lungs at the onset of Virtuous Woman.)

A performance of recent single Melody, which has yet to be claimed on an album, pumped a fresh but familiar sound foreshadowing a new release.

“We have another album coming out called 'Tell Mi How Mi Sound.' We’re not sure officially, but it’s coming soon. It’s a roots and culture album. We work with Sly and Robbie, we work with [Colin] “Bulby” York, we also have Barrington Levy…It’s a real beautiful album. Roots and culture. Real authentic reggae music. I think it’s one of our best ones yet,” said Warrior King.

Warrior King dipped into all three of his full-length albums at the Rockit Room show but selected the majority from his sophomore album, 'Hold the Faith,' including My Life, Baby Girl (the sweetest tune since Dennis Brown’s remake of Queen Majesty), Can’t Get Me Down and the title track, Hold the Faith. He pulled one lone tune from his “Love is in the Air” bag of tracks, none other than Love is in the Air. And love was, most certainly in the air flowing from the crowd to Warrior King and from the artiste to audience, same way.

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