In the late ‘90’s Finley Quaye brought sun filled, loved-up reggae to the masses as Britpop was breathing its final lung of oxygen and the country realized that New Labour was just as rubbish as the Tory’s had been. Quaye’s laid-back and beautiful vocal sometimes broke the glass ceiling of the music industry with standout tracks such as “Sunday Shining,” “Even After All” and “Love Gets Sweeter.”
In 2005, he moved to Berlin, where he worked with a number of other ex-pats, including A Guy Called Gerald. Last week he returned to the city he lit up nearly ten years before to play the first of two shows at The Jazz Café, one of London’s coolest venues. As he followed behind his backing musicians dressed almost as colorful as any Notting Hill Carnival procession, he flicked the tip of a cigarette. Upon his arrival on stage, Quaye complained about the new smoking ban in the UK: “I can’t bear it, I don’t know how you put up with it.”
The first five tracks—some funk, soul, bass driven tracks that made your head rock in time to the horn section—very good. The sixth track opened a door to 1995 and lazing in fields without the burden of a war, a failing health service, violent crime and the thought of life only getting worse before they get better. The luscious love song, “Even After All,” brought the entire crowd to its feet, everyone hoping once again raised for better things to come. Then he dropped it. The massive “Sunday Shining” was the song that made Mr. Quaye, and he happily placed it right in the middle of his set.
The fun didn’t stop there—he played a few more tunes from the vault and dropped a few new ones for good measure. A rendition of “House Of The Rising Sun,” where Quaye changed the lyrics to “There is a house in Africa….” was a dubbed out slice of soul that came from the heart, hoping that one day corruption will end and Africa will be returned to its people as the precious jewel it is.
Tonight I revisited a time I thought I would never see again, wandered a road I believed to be eroded by the encroaching of time into my adult life, and got to know the man whosemusic was the soundtrack to my virginity being stolen. I hope that a new album will appear in due course and that Finley Quaye will once again inspire a generation with sultry love songs, political anthems and genuinely good music.
words & image: Oliver Guy-Watkins