Review: The Jolly Boys, The 100 Club London

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The sheer joy of a septuagenarian Jamaican rocking a red suit, belting out classic tunes mento-style and dropping the occasional James Brown-style “huh!” cannot be fully expressed in words. Just smiles, laughter and applause which are heaped on The Jolly Boys by the sell-out crowd at esteemed venue The 100 Club on Oxford Street.

With a changing lineup over six decades, the Port Antonio mento band are experiencing a revival after hooking up with Jon Baker (Gee Street Records) and Mark Jones (Wall of Sound) in 2009 who introduced a repertoire of pop and rock tunes to bring the mento sound bang up to date. The feel-good, retro vibe has been a hit at Secret Garden party and Camp Bestival and was well received this weekend at Big Chill.

The current touring band mixes three of the original members (Albert Minott, vocals; Joseph “Powda” Bennett, vocals, maracas; and Derrick “Johnny” Henry, rumba box) with three younger members (Dale Virgo, percussion; Donald Waugh, banjo; and Lenford “Brutus” Richards, guitar).

The charismatic Minott commands the stage with a deep, gruff vocal combined with red two-piece, double-watch fresh style. Johnny smiles up from atop his rumba box and the slight Powda is, quite frankly, adorable, his face split by a wide grin. Don’t let the age fool you, both Minott and Powda have still got moves, and there is a warm energy on stage throughout.

Given the sheer age of the older members of the band and the classic covers, it may be tempting to view them as a novelty act, but The Jolly Boys play an undeniably tight set (Waugh in particular shines on banjo) and bring their traditional music to a whole new audience. The show kicks off with traditional mento tunes such as Talking Parrot and Iron Bar and immediately the marvellous mixture of characters in the 100 Club is soaked in Jamaican sunshine. Soon the covers come thick and fast, everything from Golden Brown to Blue Monday to the familiar take on Amy Winehouse’s Rehab. After rapturous applause, the band return to stage for an encore of Riders on the Storm and a brilliant, triumphant rendition of Ring of Fire.

A truly heartwarming gig.

Set list:

Water Boy
Talking Parrot
Iron Bar
Golden Brown
Perfect Day
Do It Again
Blue Monday
Hanging On The Telephone
Can’t Always Get What You Want
Riders on The Storm
Ring of Fire

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