Jamaican dancehall king Buju Banton has come a long way from the immature and controversial figure he cut in the early ’90s, when all he could think to toast were sex and violence.
But at the nearly full House of Blues on Monday it was an evolved and enthused Buju (born Mark Myrie) who performed a knock-out all-ages show, with such thoughts as social justice and higher love clearly on his mind.
Following an instrumental intro from his backing Shilo Band that included Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up,” the lanky Banton, 27, bounded onto the stage and launched into his 90-minute concert with a super-hot version of his 1997 song of freedom “Destiny.” Exaggerated body movements punctuated the infectious beats.
Banton isn’t overly blessed with any one particular skill, but he makes the most of what he’s got. His lyrics have improved from simple to more substantial, his limited vocal flow has in recent years taken on a hefty tone that serves to accent his words, and his onstage energy is seemingly boundless, all making for an entertaining live show.
The set was split between tracks from Banton’s new album “Unchained Spirit” (Anti/Epitaph) — the best of which were the propulsive ska beats of “Better Must Come” and the spiritual “23rd Psalm,” featuring much-respected guests Morgan Heritage — as well as older crowd faves like 1994’s justice-minded “Murderer” and 1995’s “Champion,” from Banton’s ” ‘Til Shiloh” album.
Tim Armstrong and Lars Frederiksen from Bay Area punk band Rancid joined in on guitar and vocals during “No More Misty Days.”
Fans on the crowded floor, comprising a veritable racial melting pot, cheered Banton’s first L.A. appearance in two years by dancing and singing key lyrics throughout the show.
More than a few got away with smoking herb in the security-minded club.