Sly & Robbie rolled into Yoshi's with the Taxi Gang in tow for a two night stand at Yoshi's this week and I caught the second show after a double feature at the Viz. These two guys have worked together for more than thirty years and they are probably the world's best rhythm section. They've worked with and for more people than you can even imagine. It's somewhat staggering. Sometimes their albums are fantastic (Rhythm Killers) sometimes confusing (Material's The Third Power) sometimes just so-so (Silent Assassins) but this show was guaranteed to have some serious chops on display and they didn't disappoint.
I have to admit to not being able to understand the name of anyone in the Taxi Gang, though they were announced twice. I can't find the current line-up online, but know that the two keyboard players, sax, trombonist/vocalist who threw it down with them were great. The guitarist however, was fantastic. I wish I knew who he was- if you do, please mention it in the comments. A singer named Peter G. came out and did a couple of tunes with the band toward the end and almost got done by a woman from the audience.
The hour and a half set, played for an enthusiastic, often high, distressingly and overwhelmingly Caucasian full-house, was heavy on monster slabs of dub. Though Dunbar's drum kit was more modest than I expected, the band doesn't shy away from using computer effects on their instruments and Dunbar crafted thick percussive beats that seemed to come from three different players. The sound of the drums shifted all night, and you could never tell where he was going to take it next. While he sometimes called out cues, more often the music just suddenly shifted into another zone with no effort, smooth as glass but sharp as a knife.
Shakespeare is simply an amazing bass player- he plays it with right hand, he plays it with his left, and he makes it look so effortless as he rolls his shoulders to the rhythm. He almost never looked at Dunbar, yet the two of them were as in sync as any two musicians I've ever seen play together. Never flashy, but the man can make you move your body with his bass like you're a puppet. The songs ranged from straightforward reggae to dub with heavy metal guitar laid over the top like a machine gun. But mostly it was about the rhythm and on that score, it was a funkin' dub monster gig.
Once again, a shout-out to Yoshi's for being a great place to see a show. I went by myself and when I told the host upstairs I wanted to eat she asked me if minded sharing a table with a child. Surprised by the question, I said "not at all" and sat down next to Eduardo and Kelly from Bishop, there to get their groove on with their charming young son Mattias. A super-nice family who chatted me up while I ate my burger and fries, quickly and efficiently delivered by one of the joint's excellent servers. Though I've seen a couple of mishaps in the place, all in all Yoshi's has to be one of the very best venues in San Francisco for live music.