Performance hard to beat

Irie J, Caf� Bencotto, Felixstowe, February 26

Irie J, Caf� Bencotto, Felixstowe, February 26

Back in the day, when the Special AKA were trying to free Nelson Mandela, and rocking against racism was where it was at, the Jah Warriors were Ipswich's biggest and most-celebrated reggae band.

Even the legendary Curtis Mayfield predicted a bright future for the 80s' stars who sang about apartheid, abortion and the drugs' squad.

Now, 30 years on, Nelson Mandela is enjoying a well-earned retirement and there's an African American in the White House.

And the Jah Warrior's vocalist has also undergone a transformation.

Out have gone the dreads, and in comes a charismatic ladies man modelled more on Lenny Henry's Theophilis P. Wildebeest than Bob Marley.

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What stays the same, though, is a voice as rich and silky as his well-tailored suit.

After the Jah Warriors disbanded in the late 80s, Irie J, then known as Theo Jones, underwent a number of revamps, relaunching in the mid 90s as Irie J.

Influenced by Luther Vandross, the singer now combines his love of reggae and soul, and was the star of an intimate concert that brought a chilly late winter evening to life.

IrieJ was appearing at Felixstowe's Caf� Bencotto as part of the venue's popular Thursday music nights, which are fast establishing themselves on the local music scene.

With a repertoire that included everything from Martha and the Vandellas, Womack and Womack, Bob Marley, George Benson, UB40 it was a performance that was hard to beat.

While older ladies danced to Irie's rendition of Al Green's Let's Stay Together, younger ones strutted their stuff to Michael Bubl�.

The Jah Warriors had their own very important message, but for an evening of feelgood fun and a party atmosphere, that left the audience of more than 100 beaming, it was IrieJ all the way.

Georgina Wroe