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Leroy Smart at London's Brixton Hootananny

Leroy Smart at London's Brixton Hootananny

Leroy Smart at London's Brixton Hootananny

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - Comment

The Don talks as much as he sings but still knows how to put on a show.


Leroy Smart - London

Some personalities are described as "larger than life". Some artists are better known for their life than their work. But Alpha Boys School alumnus Leroy Smart is one of the few whose eventful life and extraordinary back catalogue are at a constant standoff.

December 11th's Hootananny show (postponed from its original date of November 13th) was even more packed than usual for an artist who has played only sporadically in London since the 80s. "At Brixton Academy I was only here for a short thing now I am doing the long thing" said the flamboyantly attired singer to a throng; their sweltering collective body heat as fierce as the cold outside. He was referring to a Reggae Valentines bill in 2005 where he prematurely left the stage. This time arriving at midnight (after an hour's selection by MC Trooper and Brother Culture) he stayed for 70 minutes: opening with his 1982 Volcano hit I am The Don before building to his Channel One smashes Ballistic Affair and Pride and Ambition - with some colourful language along the way.

You couldn't fault the Don's abilities as a performer. His astonishing anguished voice sounded just like his records. And, while he stopped short of the back flips of folklore that accompanied his shows back in the day, he moved with a sinuous grace of a youth. Leroy Smart - LondonThe reaction he got from female audience members of the was astonishing so it's understandable that, as a proud man who successfully navigated the roots/dancehall transition, he would want to celebrate the latter side. He did sing his roots classic Jahoviah on the Every Tongue rhythm, although it would have been nice to hear at least one tune from his early 70s association with Jimmy Radway, even if it was never likely to happen.

Some punters seemed to take exception to his antics. His habitual stopping and starting of the Hootananny's conglomerate Artist band and incessant patter between verses drew a few boos and shouts of "play the song" mixed in with the applause. But the divisive Don has always done things his own way, and as the full house demonstrated, is invariably a memorable sight and sound to behold.

Support came from the tall, casually dressed lovers singer Leroy Simmons and the diminutive besuited singjay Tad Hunter who both performed over backing tracks.

Promoter Cecil Reuben told United Reggae that The Hootananny is putting on a second, send off show on January 8th before Mr Smart returns to his Jamaican home.

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