To promote the release of their new album ‘Release The Fear’, UK reggae artist Natty, along with his band The Rebel Ship, have embarked on their 2016 tour. We went along to their opening show at the Exeter Phoenix to catch some good vibes and support two talented independent artists.
Kicking off the gig was local reggae-rock outfit Lion Star. Although the sextet consisted solely of white men in tribal tattoos, their superfluous dreadlocks put The Rebel Ship’s to shame. Their reggae was immaculately performed accumulating aspects of world music as well as a clear rock influence. Featuring a roaring didgeridoo and a percussive wooden frog, their eclectic sound was masterfully conducted for the building audience. Complete with soaring guitar solos from both guitarists that seemed to reach endless heights, the Hendrix and Marley inspired band played popular tracks such as ‘Positive Vibrations’ and ‘Dance’ to get the crowd moving.
Finally, after an elaborate surge of suspense provided by The Rebel Ship’s instrumental intro, the short and sprightly Natty sprung onto stage. Opening with the catchy ‘Gaia’ lifted from their new album, the crowd was instantly awash with unified euphoria. Intermittent anecdotes promoting peace and self love captivated the audience and reinforced the messages of his songs. Fan favourite ‘Bedroom Eyes’ from his 2008 début LP ‘Man Like I’ had the crowd reciting every word, but not to the degree as what came later in a spontaneous rendition of his past hit ‘July’. Initially not in the band’s set list, the song was requested by a girl in the front row after she gave Natty a time-check. Claiming he would only play a few lines, the crowd’s enthusiasm granted the artist no choice but to play a beautiful acoustic rendition of ‘July’ in its entirety.
The band performed songs from the full length of Natty’s discography. ‘Afrika’, a track from Natty’s 2012 mixtape ‘Out Of Fire’, had the crowd proclaiming that they wish to travel “back to Africa” in it’s lyrics. This Rastafarian dream of returning to the Ethiopian holy land appeared to be upheld by Exeter’s predominantly white middle class crowd who, rather than for religious reasons, were attempting to grow dreadlocks since showering uses up bong water. Whilst this cultural irony was evident, it cannot distract from the fact that Natty is leading the UK’s contemporary reggae scene through his ability to combine genres and reach new audiences. With clear influences from hip-hop, soul and electronic music as well as reggae, Natty’s unique and diverse style has allowed him to grow and find a niche in popular music.
Following an announcement that they would be unable to play an encore since they were already breaching Exeter’s historic curfew laws, the band performed two more songs from ‘Release The Fear’. First came their recent single ‘I’m Alive’, which is in fact a development of Natty’s 2012 skit of the same name. Natty hopped across the stage making giant one-footed leaps to the music as the crowd danced and whistled along to the uplifting track. Finally, after introducing and giving appreciation to each member of The Rebel Ship, Natty closed the gig with their new album’s title track. The night’s performances were fuelled with positivity and good spirit which were both passed on to the responsive crowd as they made their migrations home with their heads still bopping.
Many fans have been concerned as to why Natty’s ‘Release The Fear’ has been removed from music streaming service Spotify. This is what the man himself had to say:
The current debate surrounding the profits from streaming subscriptions and artists’ earnings for their craft is clearly real in the lives of small independent artists as they struggle to make their music accessible whilst also making a living. Whilst artists such as Kanye West and Taylor Swift have made dramatic examples against Spotify, it is evident that musicians like Natty & The Rebel Ship and Lion Star are at the brunt of streaming services’ dominance. I encourage you to support independent artists and local acts as well as your chart favourites. In the case of these two bands, it would be as worthwhile as driving on the correct side of the road.
Hear it hear : Lion Star – Positive Vibrations
Hear it here: Natty & The Rebel Ship – I’m Alive
Written by: James Wijesinghe
Images courtesy of: @nattymusic (instagram)