Misty In Roots – Live review

Misty In Roots
The Picket, Liverpool
Friday 30th September 2011

Misty in Roots came together in Southall, London way back in 1975, initially working as a backing band for the late, Nicky Thomas. By 1978 Misty had begun to develop their own roots reggae sound. Their lyrics were inspired by and reflected the economic decline and a growing awareness of their own African culture.
Their debut album ‘Live at the Counter Eurovision’ helped bring awareness of black culture to a white, initially punk rock audience ”“ the links between punk and reggae are well documented; Misty In Roots perhaps more so than any other UK reggae group were, by releasing The Ruts seminal ‘In A Rut/H Eyes’ single the very band that cemented those links more than any other; and lets not forget – Misty were the reggae band Johnny Rotten said it was good to like.

Misty In Roots – Live review

As such it was good to see a few punk rockers amongst the crowd at The Picket to witness Misty In Roots first appearance in the city since the Africa Oye Festival 2004, the gig forming part of the 10 date ”ËœRespect Due’ tour to promote the recently re-released ‘Roots Controller’ which was their first album in 12 years. Despite the passage of time their message remains resolutely the same ”“ presenting the Rastafarian ideology and spirit upon a platform of solid deep bass, gospel-tinged keyboards and uplifting brass, not to mention some of the most soulful voices”¦

On the warmest September day for 100 years, Misty In Roots took to the stage and raised the temperature that little bit more.

”ËœDancehall Babylon’ gently berates heathen’s for not praising Jah, ”ËœOn The Road’ deals with African’s arriving in the West seeking prosperity, and discovering its as tough here as at home so them making the return journey. Despite these heavy themes, the songs themselves are beautifully constructed, with warm melodies, underpinned by a soulful driving bass ”“ the sublime interplay between the brass section and the keyboards; this is roots reggae at its very finest. ”ËœAlmighty (The Way)’ offers up a more traditional less soulful approach, yet is equally engaging.

What distinguishes Misty In Roots from many other live reggae acts is their innate ability to allow the music to flow, they are clearly consummate musicians who understand the need for the various instruments to be heard ”“ often with live reggae the bass overpowers everything else, Misty In Roots don’t succumb to that; instead vocalist Poko controls his band and informs us that “this music is like magic” before the band launch into ”ËœWandering Wanderer’ which despite being over 30 years old sounds as vital, as uplifting as it did all those years ago.

Misty In Roots – Live review

Misty didn’t play from a set list ”“ the audience were able to call out for personal favourites and if the band felt like it, they played the song; how many other bands with a 30 year repertoire would be brave enough to perform like this? As such we were treated to ”ËœNo Love’ performed in memory of previous vocalist Devlin Tyson who sadly drowned in the mid 80’s whilst on tour with the band.

Misty In Roots were clearly enjoying themselves, and drew further strength from the now gyrating audience, they played with passion for an hour and a half before exiting the stage ”“ that wasn’t enough for the crowd who demanded more – “here this” Poko barked as they returned to play a further two tracks closing with a untitled jazz tinged number.

Misty were magnificent, the intensity of the songs, the hooks, the hypnotic rhythms and the melodies all proof that Misty In Roots remain at the very top of their game, and are one of the most vital bands in the country.

If you get the chance go and see them during the course of the tour:

Sat 1st Oct Cell, Blaenau Ffestiniog
Sun 2nd Oct The Cluny, Newcastle upon Tyne
Fri 7th Oct African & Caribbean Centre, Glasgow
Sat 8th Oct The Wardrobe, Leeds
Fri 14th Oct Fiddlers Club, Bristol
Fri 21st Oct Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Sat 22nd Oct Band On The Wall, Manchester
Fri 28th Oct Exeter Phoenix, Exeter
Sat 29th Oct Rich Mix, London

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Phil Newall is from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.


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  11. Very well written review.

    I was at Misty’s Band on the Wall gig in Manchester on Sunday 22nd. It was incredible – for me the bassist was outstanding – driving, funky and melodic which together with the brilliant drumming made a truly great backbone for this truly excellent band. The lead vocalist was energetic and connected with the enthusiastic audience making for a great concert. The brass and guitar and keys were all a demonstration of masters on their instruments: Every instruments could be heard clearly as it just seemed to slot exactly in place. A beautiful flowing sound. Nothing but praise.


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