By Jamila Pomeroy
The Vogue Theatre
April 7th, 2019
Fathers of reggae and cultural activists, Steel Pulse, played to a packed Vogue theatre this past Sunday, proving grooving in the name of equality was not a phase of the ‘70s. The Handsworth, Bermingham, England band made powerful statements through their performance, which primarily encircled themes of racial equality and the relationship between government institutions and marginalized groups. With a foundation aligned with the revolt of the ‘80s punk movement, Steel Pulse continue their plight of urban black revolution, while saluting their motherland—Africa.
Naturally, when you attend a reggae show, you assume irie, peace and love: Steel Pulse veers from the expected, delivering the addition of high-energy guitar licks, explorative bass lines, and passionate afro-dance moves that send dreadlocks flying. From the surface, the feel-good vibes and heavy scents of cannabis had Vancouverites elevated from the outside overcast weather; digging deeper and into the eyes of a few teary-eyed concert-goers, the band’s politically-charged lyrics proved to hold great relevance to today’s global social climate.
Accompanied by lyrics that tilt to the evils of racism, the band held their arms up to the sound of gunshots, pleading “I can’t breath” and “don’t shoot.” This part of the performance was in reference to the late Eric Garner, who died in 2014 after being choked to death by New York Police officer Daniel Pantaleo, after being suspect to selling cigarettes on the street. Pantaleo was reported to have pushed the side of Garner’s face into the ground while four officers moved to restrain Garner, who repeated “I can’t breathe,” eleven times while lying facedown on the sidewalk. Garner’s death, which has become emblematic of long-standing tensions and unjust brutality involving police and minorities, was ruled a homicide. Steel Pulse have been known to incorporate social justice elements into performance, but this enactment implored fans to make waves of social change—even if, solely through the power of music.
Echoing these themes, songs like “Ku Klux Klan,” remained pertinent, and deeply affecting. Sonically, the band’s performance surpassed the quality of their studio albums, proving the 44-year-old band has aged like fine wine. With a diversified fan-base ranging from 18 to folks that must have been late into their ‘60s, Steel Pulse have managed to successfully unite lovers of reggae in the name of justice and equity.Steel Pulse, The Vogue Theatre