JIMMY CLIFF in concert Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Triadtheatre. Opening was DAVID LINDLEY. One performance only, a benefit for KRCL Radio.I don't for a minute question Jimmy Cliff's sincerity when he sings, "Reggae makes me feel all right." Reggae's message of world peace makes me feel all right, too.
But it wasn't just reggae that was making many, if not most, feel good Thursday night. It was the virtual smorgasbord of drugs and alcohol, with seemingly every third person poking powder up their nose or pulling on a wad of gange.
And on more than one occasion, drugs and alcohol combined to create violent confrontations, sometimes with other fans, sometimes with security. At one point, some 200 fans (most of them intoxicated on one substance or another) who decided they didn't want to shell out $14 a ticket rushed en masse toward a fence. They were met by security guards, and when the fighting was over, the sidewalk was literally painted with human blood.
Ironically, Jimmy Cliff was inside singing about peace, love and world harmony. Those principles may be gospel to Jimmy Cliff, but to this Just-Say-Yes-to-Drugs crowd the message was lost in an intoxicating blue haze.
Jimmy Cliff could have been playing Judas Priest songs and I'm not sure this crowd would have cared. They were blitzed. They were there for one reason: They came to party.
The problem was no one at the Triad Center seemed to care what the spectators were smoking or snorting or drinking. And that was compounded by the promoters' failure to adequately contract for sufficient security. Salt Lake police, who responded to the situation, said there should have been twice the number of security guards on site.
And all that reflects badly on KRCL Radio - the beneficiary of this particular benefit concert. KRCL touts itself as Utah's alternative voice. But just what is that voice saying? The message its fans were communicating seemed clear: Take drugs, fry your brain, insult the woman standing next to you and act like a total jerk, all in the name of personal freedom.
Radio Free Utah? Those fans are prisoners of their own drug-induced stupidity.
For those genuine reggae fans in the crowd, and there were some, Jimmy Cliff was certainly in fine form. "I am not a politician. I'm a musician with a mission," he said.
That mission includes prying Peter Botha's iron grip from black South Africans, destroying apartheid, preaching world love and encouraging the human spirit to "soar like an eagle."
"We come to save the world with love as our foundation," he told the crowd. And his music certainly bears that out.
Cliff devoted much of his concert to new songs from his "Hanging Fire," LP, one of his best efforts yet in his 25-year career. New songs like "Reggae Down Babylon," "Hold Tight (Eye For an Eye)" and "Soar Like an Eagle" are perhaps the best Cliff tunes yet and a fitting reflection of an international star who is just hitting his peak as a songwriter and performer.
His songwriting abilities have been recognized for some time. Thursday night charismatic Cliff proved he is also a magical performer, weaving a spiritual element of unity throughout his music.
Jimmy Cliff is exactly what he sings. He mixes not words, he makes no apologies, he speaks truth simply and without pulling punches. Jimmy Cliff is the epitome of what reggae music is all about.
Too bad it didn't sink into most people's heads.