Third World plays to a packed crowd at Hawks & Reed in Greenfield, MA - photo by Kelly D
Third World plays to a packed crowd at Hawks & Reed in Greenfield, MA - photo by Kelly D

Third World and the Alchemystics Hawks and Reed PAC, Greenfield MA May 16, 2018

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In the last several months I have seen a bunch of quality reggae at the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield including legendary ska and reggae band The Skatalites, Dave Noonan’s Green Island, The Equalites, the Big Takeover and many others.  It was my distinct pleasure to go see one of the most legendary bands in the history of reggae music, Third World.

Read about Green Fest 2018 (ft. the Skatalites, DNGI, the Equalites, and more) HERE.

First up on the bill were Pioneer Valley favorites The Alchemystics.  The band has grown tighter and tighter in the last few years and this time was no exception.  The band quickly belted out a half dozen tunes in a set whose highlight for me may have been the song Baltimore.  I happened to be standing next to reggae encyclopedia David Boatwright of the Equalites, who let me know that this song which has been covered by many (including Nina Simone) was written by Randy Newman.  Throughout my night, Dave dropped tons of tidbits of reggae information on me for both bands and seriously, I don’t think that anyone on earth knows more about reggae than David.  It’s amazing. There was obvious joy on the stage from the Alchemystics as they played not only to their crowd but to newcomers who were in from all over the Northeast to see Third World.  The band was thick and dynamic, swaying between their normal mix of reggae, world, hip hop, rock, and soul.

Whole set audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs:

After a break Third World came on, and opened with the recognizable hit Now That We Found Love… and got the show off to a roaring start.  The crowd was of a very decent size for a Wednesday night in a small town like Greenfield and the band acted like they were playing in front of thousands of people.  It almost felt like every song was a hit, with singer AJ Brown commanding the stage and the microphone as if he is one of the most celebrated and experienced singers in modern music, which he may well be from the performance he gave to the crowd.

Over the next ninety minutes or more Third World gave us everything that they had, from their extensive catalog of hits and deeper cuts to an extended multi song tribute to Bob Marley.  Hits from their most well known 96 Degrees in the Shade which included the requisite audience sing along to lesser known material like Yim Mas Gan (Let Him Be Praised)  and Roots with Quality.

96 Degrees started with an extensive acoustic guitar section led by Cat Cora who, with every note he plays, as well as his general showmanship, showcased him as one of the most talented reggae musicians in the world, and a musician that goes beyond genre classification also.  He switched deftly from electric to acoustic, and had some guitars that may have been hybrids of some sort that I couldn’t quite place (a strangely-shaped guitar that had the feel of a giant mandolin but I’m not even sure what it was.)

Cora took over the show in his customary fashion with an extended cello solo.  He meandered through a variety of melodies that captured the audience and inspired sing alongs, beginning with Rivers of Babylon.  This eventually spilled into Bob Marley’s Redemption Song to initiate the Marley tribute which also included Who the Cap Fit into the classic Zimbabwe. Back to Third World land and we saw the show climax with the Stevie Wonder penned Try Jah Love which morphed into a reprise of Now That We Found Love.  The vibes were high, and the love affair was well established between audience and band.

I had an impression that Third World was a top-tier reggae band, likely one of the five or ten best reggae bands ever assembled and this show did nothing to dissuade me from this idea.  I had the distinct impression that they could walk onstage at any event, from 100 people to 100 thousand people and be able to convince every single member of any audience of their skill, quality and devotion to this music. They came back after the briefest moments to supply the encore, Dancing on the Floor.  They delivered it with the joy and tireless energy that they showed all night and the crowd on this random weekday in Greenfield MA left completely sated.

Full show audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs:

Set List (incomplete or not 100% accurate on song titles- I’m guessing) Now that We’ve Found Love Reggae Ambassadors My Father Yim Mas Gan (Let Him be Praised) Acoustic guitar solo into 96 Degrees in the Shade Roots with Quality …    Come Together Drum section Cello Solo including Rivers of Babylon> Redemption Song Who the Cap Fit Zimbabwe Try Jah Love Now That We’ve Found Love Reprise E:  Dancing on the Floor

Check out the Live Music News and Facebook page for updates and announcements.

To submit an article an article or review, or to just say hello hit us at [email protected] 

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