Culture Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC - August 9, 2003

Culture Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC - August 9, 2003
A righteous shaman for these godless times, Culture front-man Joseph Hill entranced the assembled with his resonant tones and spiritual invocations, delivering the sort of show only a true professional can. Backed by a squad of seasoned session players, the nattily-attired Hill set the tone early, boasting that "We're gonna run this ting for peace." Indeed, the spectre of global strife coloured much of the reggae hero's words, as he decried the reign of Lucifer and called for an end to the Babylonian empire. Heavy stuff, indeed, but couched within his band's crushing grooves, Hill's anti-imperial pronouncements went down a storm, inciting venue-wide dancing for over two hours. Of particular note were songs from the outfit's new LP, World Peace, the 30th full-length release of its career and also one of its finest. The new album amounts to one long meditation on good and evil in the modern world, but calling Hill a "conscious" vocalist seems somehow trite. Both a prophet and a poet, the veteran roots star and his two backing singers kept the audience on a short leash, initiating raucous call and response sessions and teasing the crowd into a frenzy with their near-orgiastic chatter. Meanwhile, Hill's band indulged in some fine solo displays without ever losing the plot, tapping into the vibe without getting overwhelmed by it. Comprised of a guitarist, a bassist, two keyboard players and a drummer, the outfit layered sounds deftly atop one another, each member making himself heard without raising his instrumental voice. As lessons in performance go, they don't come much more exemplary than Culture's show. Youth, take note.