Club Viva, June 19, 2002


Words seriously can't do justice to what I witnessed last night at Club Viva. Just 4 months after playing the same venue, Midnite returned to an overwhelming, enthusiastic response.

They drove all night and day from D.C. to get here and I saw their sound check at about 7 p.m. They began by playing some blues and jazz, just blowing me away. Then they worked on 2 of their latest songs, "Jah Ovah" and "In 8." These guys are incredibly tight and I knew it was gonna be another incredible evening.

The crowd started filing in and at 11 p.m. sharp they took the stage. Last time I didn't know some of their songs, but since then have obtained everything they've released (and they have a lot), but they still started off with a tune I'd never heard before ("No Rest For The Weary") and played like 2 or 3 others I wasn't familiar with. But they all were killers...

In concert I must say they're the most exciting band I've seen in years. They're incredible! Drum and bass, with Dion and Phil, lay down some crucial riddims. Abijah is roots guitar with an edge. Ron Benjamin again harmonizes and is just skankin while at his keyboards. Constantly smiling and having the time of his life. These 4 guys are incredibly tight, just playing the wickedest tunes I've ever heard. Then there's Vaughn Benjamin on lead vocals. I'm serious when I say he could be the most charismatic vocalist out there. He's so different with his chanting and singing, has the coolest look and style - he's just incredible.

Small stage, place is packed and going crazy and they start off with the above-mentioned "No Rest For The Weary." They played a slow-motion version of "Rasta Man Stand" early (3rd song?) and just proceeded to play til 1:20 a.m. straight. 2 hours and 20 minutes of intense reggae music, and believe me, they would've played for longer if it was possible (it was hilarious at the end - a couple of lights were on, with one right above Dion's head on drums. He casually stood up and twisted the bulb off. The place went crazy!)...

Here's a list of most of the songs they played (I just got home from work and with 3 hours of sleep have no idea as to even what day it is)... Accapella version of "Grapes Of Wrath" into Merciless (and Vaughn's lyrics on 'Grapes' is "Grapes Of Wrath don't bust em..." unbelievable), "Bless" was incredible, "Bushman" and "Due Reward" at the end had an incredible crowd sing-along, "Ras To The Bone," "Old Robe," "Batter Ram Sound," "Wrickta Scale," "White Collar Criminal," "Love The Life You Live," "Propaganda," "Kaaba Stone," "Meditation" and "Mama Africa" just blew the place away. It was 12:30 before they hit the new CD, "Seek Knowledge Before Vengeance," and they only played 2 tracks, "Ras For A Reason" and "Jah Ovah." That was disappointing in that I wanted to hear more from that one, but no complaints...they were just incredible.

They never play the same show twice. They are a truly free form band. They have no set playlist; Ron comes up with the tunes and the band follows. Vaughn is phrasing differently on many songs, throwing different lyrics in. It's just incredible. If you saw em play 2 or 3 nights in a row, each show would be completely different. They just knock me out... It was hilarious. Some people were throwing money on the stage and they picked it up and had it all crumpled up on one side of Ron's keyboards. Just had it there for the duration of the show. Right on his keyboards. Not dollar bills, but 10's and 20's Ron told me later! I think they pocketed about $200!!! Also heard these 3 guys from Florida heard about the show, flew into Chicago, then drove 6 hours here. After meeting em, apparently one guy had read some of my positive reviews (I guess some people read these things through!) and decided to come up. I was getting them psyched up, telling em to get ready for the show of a lifetime and afterwards they told me and the band that they were completely and utterly blown away! Two of the guys weren't sure about the road trip - that's a LONG distance - but after witnessing the performance they said it was incredible. And they'd do it again (but they want to get the band down to Florida instead)...

Reasoning with them later, they are serious, righteous and humble. Vaughn went non-stop for the entire 140 minutes and could barely talk after the show! The crowd was just shaking their heads in amazement as they filtered out. The best part is that in exactly one month (!) they return to play a bigger venue - one of the best ones in town with fantastic sight lines - on Saturday night July 20th. They promised to play more tunes off their new disc (maybe in it's entirety) and they'll play for a good 3 hours that night. It'll be incredible. I'm tellin ya, follow the lead from the guys from Florida and come up. This one promises to be one of the most magical and intense shows in the history of St. Louis reggae...

Reporting from the Midwest
Professor Skank