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Another night of innovative and creative music at the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield, MA. On St Paddy’s Eve local Afrobeat purveyors Shokazoba started the night with a set filled with dance grooves with a distinctly west African flare. A large ensemble as is the standard in western MA these days ranged from drums to percussion, keys, guitars, bass and more. But I was there to see The Big Takeover.
People have been telling me about this band for about a year, and I was truly excited to hear what they had in store for us. Hailing from New York state, this was their second trip to the area this year already. The band includes saxophone, trombone, bass, guitar and drums with NeeNee Rushie fronting the band on vocals. Born in Jamaica, Rushie is an amazing singer and front woman. Her grip not only on the mic, but on ska, reggae, and Jamaican pop are on display from start to finish. She is dynamic, emotive, and an inspirational vocalist.
Projecting an amazing level of professionalism and performance, Rushie consistently broke the barrier between the audience and the stage: not by jumping up and down or leaving the stage, but rather by emoting directly to the audience and communicating the spirit and meaning of their music in an easily digestible and delicious manner. Evoking the spirit of the Skatalites, the Specials, and so many bands in the Jamaican styles of ska and reggae the band deftly maneuvered through nineteen songs much to the delight of the crowd.
Most of the set was original music including excerpts from the band’s current release, Silly Girl including the title track. NeeNee Rushie definitely does the soul and blues queens of the past justice. With her powerful voice, she is the modern manifestation of these strong powerful women. But while those songs of the 50s, 60s, and 70s lament the loss of love, loneliness, and a woman done wrong by a man, we’ve come a long way. NeeNee has transformed the spirit of these songs into the voice of a strong independent woman expressing that, in fact, it’s the man who’s lost out on the love of this woman. From Billie Holiday to Doreen Shaffer of the Skatalites to Macy Gray, Rushdie’s dexterous and powerful voice is evocative of those who came before her but aims toward an evolution of voice and genre.
Don’t sleep on the rest of the band though. From top to bottom they are all excellent at their instruments and vital to the band. Horns, drums, bass and guitar, are all excellent and their ability to prop up the music, Nee Nee and the whole band is evident in every selection. The Big Takeover played a few cover songs including their finale, a ska’ed up version of Elton John’s Crocodile Rock that was as surprising as it was excellent. Every song was high energy and you can lose yourself in the danceablity of this band. Run, do not walk to the next opportunity to see The Big Takeover.
Complete show audio, just use the arrows to toggle between songs.