To my knowledge, I reside in the great city of New York, where winters are cold and summers are hot and gross. Last Thursday, Jersey City-based reggae band, Kiwi, managed to convince me that I was in fact closer to the shores of a tropical island where cares and worries don’t exist. Those tricksters.
It’s hard to believe the nine musicians on stage at Joe’s Pub are actually from just across the bridge, because they and their music ooze old school, island relaxation. All dressed in suits except for lead singer, Alex Tea, who commands the stage in a cozy pullover to offset his damn-near floor-length dreads, Kiwi is a sight to see and an even better sound to hear. The melody coming from the stage is exactly what reggae should sound like, both lyrically and musically.
Many of the tunes Kiwi performs are rather simplistic and repetitive in lyrics, but with the style of music these guys are emitting, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Perhaps most impressive are the expert combinations of sounds from the various instruments on stage. With three horns, two percussionists and a variety of other members, Kiwi could easily present a loud, brassy sound to compliment the jazz from which they take some of their influence. However, despite the full stage, no individual instrument is overwhelming. Instead, the mellow sound drifting into the crowd speaks directly to the idea that all instruments are absolutely necessary for the creation of this music. Even during a mid-set display of brass and wind mastery, Kiwi maintains the perfect balance of sound.
On top of Kiwi’s beautiful combination of instrumental art, Tea serenades the crowd with a luscious pairing of meaningful lyrics and his smooth, sedative vocals. With a range from Nat King Cole covers to their own Portuguese love songs, it’s no surprise that Kiwi takes “influence from all over the place,” and they kill it every time. I couldn’t ask for a better show, and I wouldn’t dare.