By Josh Taylor
THERE can’t be many acts on the musical radar that can boast a resume as impressive as The Skatalites.
Originally formed in 1964, the group has produced 15 studio albums, five live albums and six collaborations, and has had over 30 band members through its history. There was, if truth be told, an eighteen-year hiatus between their first and second long-players, but the truly inspirational sound of their first opus was evidently enough to bring them back together all those years later.
Now, these Jamican skadvocates (see what I did there?) are bona-fide pros, and although none of the original line-up remain (after the death of co-founder Lloyd Brevett earlier this year), they are still touring like there’s no tomorrow.
And now here I am, shuffling before them in a packed, rowdy Sala El Tren, hoping that there is indeed no tomorrow. And by the looks of things, I’m not alone in my wish. Each song is met with wails of delight and ridiculously far-fetched displays of skanking (of the dancing variety). Not one person in the room isn’t smiling – not even the ones being mercilessly blasted by the sub zero air-conditioning.
Much like the progression of the era the band so perfectly sum up, the set begins with the upbeat ska tempo everybody expects, and gradually slows into a rocksteady/reggae show, ensuring all flavours of the genre are flaunted for the exultant crowd.
They don’t miss a hit, and the tour de force “Guns of Navarone” receives a particularly deafening roar of appreciation. In fact, the only thing overlooked throughout the show is an encore. But when I shrug my shoulders in bewilderment, my friend astutely points out that there is no need for one – they’ve already done what they came here to do. And as I look around to find a throng of happy customers making their way to the exit, as opposed to staying put to shout a few of the customary ‘uno más’s’ at the vacant stage, I realise she is right. The veterans simply don’t have anything left to prove.