An audience including Sir Michael Caine, Colin Firth, Damian Lewis, Helena Bonham Carter and Mike Skinner from The Streets was delighted by the feelgood tunes from Jimmy Cliff, UB40 refugees Ali Campbell and Astro and reggae’s finest rhythm section Sly and Robbie
Save The Children's yearly A Night Of gala raises money for the charity (an extraordinary £1.4 million last night) and brings together collaboration-friendly artists from a specific genre. 2014 is reggae’s year, and after a meal and speeches (newscaster Jon Snow wore a rasta hat and sang the Ugandan national anthem; surprisingly well, as it happened), the concert began at a school-night unfriendly 11.30pm.
No matter, to the delight of an audience including Sir Michael Caine (who lasted until the 1am finish), Colin Firth, Damian Lewis, Helena Bonham Carter and Mike Skinner from The Streets, the evening involved a rum cross-section of intermingling artists. There were the titans Jimmy Cliff, UB40 refugees Ali Campbell and Astro, plus reggae’s finest rhythm section Sly and Robbie. There was the revered Ernest Ranglin and Dawn Penn; British stalwarts Brinsley Forde (Aswad and Double Deckers) and Maxi Priest as well as the relatively unknown Elli Ingram and Max Stone. They all sang for the world’s children’s suppers and there were three songs from Suggs, who has yet to make a reggae record though It Must Be Love felt right.
Wisely, the acts tapped into the feelgood factor and mostly stuck to up-tempo hits. Best came last with the diminutive Cliff, who wore a tinfoil top, pink cap and red trainers without entirely sacrificing his dignity and rattled through You Can Get it if You Really Want, Many Rivers to Cross and the ensemble finale The Harder they Come.
Before that, teenager Ingram trundled through My Boy Lollipop with 81-year-old guitarist Ranglin, who played on Millie’s 1963 version, while Priest was so energetic his near-disappearance this century becomes more baffling still and, on an evening full of joy and an artistic and commercial success, drummer Sly Dunbar outcooled everyone by wearing his now-customary hard hat. The bar has been raised for 2015.