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Yellowman and Dillinger Reviewed

  • Written by  The Guardian
Yellowman and Dillinger Reviewed

Incorrigible showmen unite with a superb band in a smallish venue to give an enthusiastic young audience a treat.  When reggae was in its commercial heyday, the idea of these two legends of the genre appearing in a smallish venue with a superb band would have been fantasy stuff, but they are now wooing a new young audience. Famously namechecked in the Clash's (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais, at 60 Dillinger looks every inch the returning reggae icon, in white trilby and matching plastic sunglasses. 

With one arm permanently in the air and wearing so much gold – everything from a glittering shirt to his teeth – you half expect someone to steal him to melt him down, he offers thoughts, with a charismatic and mildly eccentric delivery, on everything from the crisis in Ukraine to rudeness, through ganja to guns and, well, geese. He can still really sing, too. 

A 45-minute masterclass erupts with the killer riff of the widely sampled 1978 classic Cocaine in My Brain and Dillinger exits with people shaking his hand.

In the 1980s, Yellowman was the biggest reggae star since Bob Marley, before two bouts of cancer saw the Jamaican being given months to live. Survival cost him part of his jaw and damaged his once-sweet vocals. 

However, he remains an incorrigible showman and never once stops his crazy dancing. His introduction here as "the king of dancehall" reflects the huge influence of his sexually suggestive style on everyone from Shaggy to Sean Paul, and Yellowman's 90-minute set is a tune-packed rollercoaster, moving from classics Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt and Zungguzungguguzungguzeng to the remake of Fats Domino's Blueberry Hill that relaunched him in ragga. 

His lyrics can still be cheekily risque – "I'm yellow like cheese, you can have me any way you please," he sings. However, brushes with mortality have left him a more reflective character and he appears genuinely moved as Manchester cheers both his indefatigable spirit and this inspired double bill.

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