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Zion Train in Dublin

Zion Train in Dublin

Zion Train in Dublin

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The Zion Train pulls into Dublin.


Zion Train

To the delight of their large multinational fan base, the Zion Train (Z.T.) expedition pulled into Dublin station (Ireland) in early October to deliver a blistering one and a half hour set. It is heartening that this European outpost remains on their tour schedule, where they always receive as rapturous a welcome as was extended to their musical predecessors - Bob Marley and the Wailers - back in 1980!

Their show is best reflected in the mass of frenzied youth erupting to the unfolding classic set. Laced with high quality content from their recently released CD ‘State of Mind’, the show whipped the large audience into a frenzy from the start, and kept them there until the end. The new release is the official follow up to their 2007 Jamaican Reggae Grammy ‘Best Dub Album’ award winner ‘Live as One’. However the set also appropriately tapped into the band’s extensive back catalogue, with popular numbers such as Terror Talk lifting the roof, even when it seemed it could go no higher.

The evening’s pace was hectic, from the opening provocatively conscious Bloodlines, Forward Ever and Give Me Good Sensi (all from the aforementioned 2007 award winning issue). By the time the 1999 Beware warning was issued, the crowd had transformed into a mesmerised mass, swaying in trance until the encore prompted the well received War In Babylon – arguably the most popular offering of the evening from the ‘Love Revolutionaries’ CD – though keenly contested by the Rainbow Children track from the new CD, compiled with the assistance of Aswad’s Brinsley Forde.

The Z.T. locomotion has clocked up much mileage since its ignition on the reggae tracks in 1990. Driven by Neil Perch (the band’s producer and multi-instrumentalist), with flowing locks he has steered the ‘Train’ to many stations around the world. His influence has ensured that they are one of the world's most prolific groups, as along with a gargantuan recorded output, innumerable production credits, remixes and song writing collaborations they have also produced magazines, CD-ROMs, Internet sites and even built sound systems.

Twiddling numerous knobs simultaneously, the articulate, multi-lingual, political and philosophical Perch presents as the ‘master at the controls’, as he steers the multi-carriage Z.T. round many tight corners and through the odd dark tunnel. In the mid 80’s, Perch got his Master’s degree in biochemistry and was set to proceed down the doctoral route. However academia’s loss was ‘psychedelic reggae’s’ gain, as an evening in the company of the wily Jah Shaka at a sound system dance served as a ‘supernatural and spiritual experience’. This was a welcome development as, once again, the evening’s show left the audience in no doubt as to who was really running the show.

The Train is conducted by Dubdadda\Johnno – whose vocal deliveries, kiss blowing, manic stage stomping movements, scowling facial grimaces, endless exhortations and perverse postures cum finger pointing would enable him to comfortably pass for the hunchback of Notre Dame! His presence makes for quite the visual spectacle ... don’t take your eyes of the action for you will surely miss something novel. Encouraging active participation throughout (e.g. ‘show of hands for those who love marijuana?), a disbelieving audience were advised that they should ‘make a granddaddy happy’ and erupt even further!

For lovers of a live horns’ section, the group make for an ideal evening. A welcome and persistent feature of the Z.T. sound entails the intermittent restraining refrain or lilt of the brass duo, set sharply in contrast with the thudding, echoing bass and provocative, predominantly political lyrics being belted out by Dubdadda. Practical financial reasons force most touring reggae outfits to pass on the expense of a live brass set ... not so with Z.T., as courtesy of David Fullwood’s trumpet and Richard Doswell’s tenor saxophone, the audience received full service in the first class carriage for the complete mesmeric trance journey to heaven!

Yet another endearing feature of this band’s pioneering dance\dub sound system style is their capacity to effectively mix real roots reggae with a myriad of contemporary styles. Indeed their early albums (e.g. A Passage To Indica), have been cited as primary influences on the techno and dub genres. The oft repeated criticism that reggae has been left behind for its failure to adapt adequately to musical change cannot be levelled at this group. An openness to modern dance styles alongside the staple ingredients of brass, bass, dubwise rhythms and hard electronic beats and strings ensures that Z.T. are welcome at almost any station they should care to pull into.

Unlike many of their musical contemporaries, Z.T. also display a keen awareness of political (mal) practices. Hence they pull no punches in pronouncing on the evils of the world and the urgency required in setting them to right, as themes of Jah, Babylon, war, violence and love proliferate. This consciousness is significantly fuelled by worldwide touring and collaborations, serving to expose the group to both musical and political developments. As Dubdadda explained: ‘we’ve been round the world ... and now we’re back again’!

So the best advice I can offer you is – as good brother Bob sang:  if the Zion Train is coming your way ... get on board! No excuses, because we know that: ‘where there's a will, there's always a way’.

The Dublin audience had no complaints ... they only wanted more!

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