The wide-eyed approach toward reggae taken by London-based singer Finley Quaye certainly has the potential to broaden the genre’s contemporary appeal, but his low-key live execution — as evidenced at this, his fourth-ever U.S. show — still leaves a bit to be desired. As is the case with many U.K. acts, a more credible live show is needed before he’ll have an impact on the U.S. market beyond the trendy scene he’s already captured.
On his debut album of last year, “Maverick A Strike” (550 Music/Sony), the 23-year-old gave roots reggae songs a lift with a slick, sub-tle production style, a multitude of modern effects and sing-a-long choruses and a bright voice that echoes the best of both reggae and soul singers.
Onstage, however, Quaye’s delivery is swift and casual, wholly lacking the expressiveness and depth of his recordings. Also, his songs’ concert arrangements — often just straight-ahead reggae adaptations — rarely stand up to the more inventive album versions.
The Roxy show began with an acoustic reading of “Even After All,” a beautiful song of devotion that lacked in this stripped-down rendering the emotion of the original. The house soundman offered little help, mixing a flat production that also stunted many of the later songs.
But Quaye, who is clearly still finding his performing comfort zone, loosened up as the 90-minute set progressed. His hit single, “Sunday Shining,” which borrows from Bob Marley’s “The Sun is Shining,” and the slow-groove of “Ultra Stimulation” were powerful rock-based songs played mid-set that benefited from the drive of his band.