Few seats were occupied Saturday night at Howard University's Cramton Auditorium during the Black Uhuru concert. Not that this colorful, galvanizing and tirelessly energetic reggae vocal trio failed to draw a crowd -- a sizable one showed up. It's just that faced with Black Uhuru's music -- a brash, compelling mix of songs like "General Penitentiary" and "Sponji Reggae" and the incessantly syncopated, double-time rhythms whipped up by the Taxi All Stars -- just about everyone preferred to spend the evening dancing in the aisles.
The All Stars sextet was led by drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare, perhaps the best-known instrumentalists and reggae producers in Jamaica today. On record, their playing frequently shares the same focus as the telling lyrics written by Black Uhuru's Michael Rose -- lyrics that, as often as not, speak of equality, exploitation or Rastafarian prophecy.
In concert, however, their inspired rhythms transcend all lyrics. The words, many of them lost in the mix, didn't seem as important as the underlying spirit and emotion that prompted them. Throughout the evening, Rose's impassioned vocals were vividly offset by Puma Jones' ethereal harmonies and Derrick Simpson's gravelly chants. All told, it was not the sort of performance one takes sitting down.