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Five thoughts on Jimmy Cliff’s July 22 performance at Brooklyn Bowl

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Jimmy Cliff delivered a fantastic set at Brooklyn Bowl.
Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna
Jason Harris

1. Many performers feed off the energy of the crowd, but Jimmy Cliff is the rare pro who demands the crowd feed off of his energy, which is boundless. A typically lethargic Strip audience had no choice but to be wrapped up in Cliff’s exuberance and actively live in his reggae/rocksteady/ska glory.

2. At 66, Cliff still moves like he’s in his 20s. He bounces across the stage, displaying his unique dance moves, to which you have no choice but to smile. It’s like he’s doing some type of high-speed Jamaican tai chi.

3. Five songs were played from the seminal soundtrack to The Harder They Come. Along with the title track, which was as good as expected, “Rivers of Babylon” set the tone early, “Sitting in Limbo” was jangly and beautifully raw and “You Can Get It If You Really Want” whipped up the crowd.

4. The fifth song from THTC was the transcendent “Many Rivers to Cross.” Cliff’s voice is a powerful, finely tuned instrument over which he has complete control, and everyone present seemed to know in a show full of highlights, this was the moment.

5. We got covers galore—Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” Desmond Dekker’s “Honor Mother and Your Father,” Bob Marley’s “Judge Not” and Sam Cooke’s “Cupid.”

Bonus: Cliff told a story about being approached by a producer who asked him if he thought he would be able to write the soundtrack to The Harder They Come. His response: “I’m Jimmy Cliff. I can do anything.” Tough to doubt him after this show.

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