The DubZone with Selecta Drek: Capleton brings the fire to his electric YAAM performance

Clifton Bailey, better known as Capleton, loves fire; one needs only to attend his live show to know that. And the Jamaican dancehall legend, now 51 years old, sure brought fire to YAAM on Thursday, Aug. 16.

Photo by Selekta Drek

A post for Omnified by Selecta Drek

Capleton Playlist – Compiled by Selekta Drek

Standing in the crowd at Capleton’s show at YAAM, I held an imaginary fireball in my right hand.

Clifton Bailey, better known as Capleton, loves fire; one needs only to attend his live show to know that. And the Jamaican dancehall legend, now 51 years old, sure brought fire to YAAM on Thursday, Aug. 16.

I had been inside the YAAM club for about an hour before Capleton took the stage. And as the minutes passed and more people filled out the dance floor, I could feel the temperature inside the venue steadily rising, so much so that dancing felt like the only way to keep cool.

The house DJ was playing a mixture of new reggae tracks, mostly from Chronixx, to keep the crowd satiated. I could have gone for a more eclectic mix from him, but Chronixx is popular for a reason, and DJs can be confident they’ll get a positive reaction from playing his music.

The heat of the dance floor was creating energy among the crowd, or perhaps the energy of the crowd was creating the heat; either way, the night was ready for a spark.

The lights gradually dimmed and Capleton’s Prophecy Band emerged. An emcee took the microphone first, singing a few songs before asking: “Does Berlin know about the Fireman?” No question there. Then, “Is Berlin ready for Fire?” I definitely was.

The stage went dark as the emcee retreated.

The lights flashed back on, revealing Capleton dressed in a silky, white Rastafarian army fatigue outfit (a custom-made outfit by Lyndon Balla Johnson) reminiscent of those worn by the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie. That is to say, Capleton looked stately. And with his gray tinged beard and utter command of the stage, his veteran status as an artist showed.

After inviting an initial cheer from the crowd, Capleton’s intensity on stage had us quiet as he got into his first tune, “No Guns.” I had expected him to come out blazing but this smooth plea to end gun violence over the “Jam Down Riddim” gave me a chance to appreciate the flitting and fun synths of the riddim as well as Capleton’s singing voice.

I liken Capleton’s vocal characteristics to Louis Armstrong in many ways. While his voice is gruff and bullish, lending itself perfectly to his famous ragga styles, he is also able to sing, hitting every note and even ranging into a falsetto at times. This differentiates him from his fellow brother-in-gruff, Buju Banton, and provides him with so many stylistic avenues for his music.

“No Guns” was a great opener for the show. Light and – while the lyrics are serious – the Prophecy Band’s live rendition of the “Jam Down Riddim” was airy, giving us a moment to escape the heat.

It turned out the escape was only momentary as Capleton soon exploded into his all-time classic, “Jah Jah City.” High-stepping back-and-forth across the stage like a drum major, Capleton paused only to appreciate that the crowd was in lockstep with him.

This was the energy that Capleton brings in his music, and I was glad that his live show took it to an even higher level.

“Jah Jah City” was followed up by more heavy-hitters “That Day Will Come,” off of his “Reign of Fire” album, and the Stephen Marley tune, “Rock Stone.”

Capleton was able to maintain the fire that he had started at the beginning of the show for song after song, with words like: “I am the fireman so I need to see your fire.”

Capleton played out more of his classic hits like “Real Hot,” “More Fire,” “Bonyo Bonyo,” and “Weed Man.” It was during “More Fire” that Capleton stopped and asked the crowd to hurl imaginary fireballs on stage, and with his guidance, it was clear the crowd was up to the task.

The show finished with my favorite song of the evening, “Raggy Road,” followed by a new track called “Rise Ever.”

It was as Capleton was leaving the stage that I realized the trance that I had been in throughout his exothermic performance, like the hypnosis one achieves from staring at a dancing flame. The nearly two hour show had passed without much pause and although I had been dancing feverishly throughout, I felt I had gained energy by the end of the show.

So, to that I say, “MORE FIYAH!” Capleton really did set the night ablaze.