Higher Heights

The Blue Nile

March 10, 2004

Local roots rock/reggae cover band Higher Heights are trying hard to make it. At The Blue Nile Wednesday night, they had a road manager/roadie, banners heralding an upcoming single, and red beans and rice in the back. Luckily, they also had a catchy and tight enough set to warrant success.

Their style was reggae, but they also mixed in some rock-steady, dancehall and Diana Ross-type pop. The main melody and horn imitations came from pianist/vocalist Chez Chez MacKaye. The rest of the band included drummer/vocalist Juan and bassist Dale, and the lead female vocalist, introduced as Bob(Marley).

The band played simple grooves that didn't telegraph themselves as reggae until the synthesizer came in, and harmonies produced the unexplainable famous sound of reggae camaraderie. They played up-tempo stuff, but when they slowed it down, I closed my eyes and tapped my foot.

Bob was the band's most important element. Her pleasing voice, varied delivery and high energy made the band a contender. She rapped for eight measures and switched to crooning without singing ahead or behind the beat. She gave off attitude, high-stepped, and shook it like a Polaroid picture or a salt shaker, whichever your preference.

Unfortunately, the rest of the band lacked Bob's energy, and on a big stage, this was a very bad thing. Good music wasn't enough. They either needed to step up their energy or the 40 person crowd needed to give up some love. In addition, they melded some of the songs together without a break. The music turned into background fodder with the same sing-songy groove over and over again.

At one point, Bob implored the crowd to dance, and that's all it took. Everyone in The Blue Nile all of a sudden loosened up.

If they eliminate their weaknesses, they might need to get an agent too.

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