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POP MUSIC REVIEWS : Pato Banton, Private Domain at the Roxy

February 05, 1988|DON SNOWDEN

British reggae toaster Pato Banton and the Private Domain band proved Wednesday at the Roxy that it takes more than having teamed on a KROQ radio hit to make a compatible combination.

Banton was the ostensible headliner but his appearance was limited to a three-song stint that closed out Private Domain's set. His musical strength lies in a rapid-fire delivery but it seemed that his appeal rested more on his youth, very diminutive frame and hyper-energetic stage presence than on any message he conveyed.

During "Never Give Up," Banton asked if there were "freedom fighters" on hand and then said, "If you believe in equal rights and freedom, hold up your hands"--not exactly a call that goes out on a limb or challenges the audience.

Banton's strong rapport with the adulatory crowd produced an unexpected highlight when he asked for volunteers who knew his rap to "Gwarn" word-for-word and found two takers who did. But Banton was upstaged by his old partner Tippa Irie on encores of "Double Trouble" and "Pressure"--the latter a telling indictment of a class-riddled society that contained the non-cliched lyrical bite Banton's other material lacked.

But Banton cheated his admirers with his half-hour performance and by failing to bring his own band--and thus having constantly to battle Private Domain's leaden non-grooves. And the quintet's own material--including the KROQ hit "Absolute Perfection," which featured a mid-song Banton rap--was a nebulous potpourri of rock and reggae influences that aspired to charged profundity but wound up lame and pretentious.

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