Ghetto-forged but with a prince's air of entitlement, Gregory Isaacs is one of reggae's finest singer-writers, a prime architect of "dread" Rastaman style, an erotic confusion of machismo, spirituality, and black pride.
But an acknowledged drug problem hampered his promising career, so the Jamaican's first performance here in six years was more than a show. When he loped onto the stage Saturday at the packed Veterans Auditorium in Culver City, the ecstatic crowd witnessed a resurrection. Brief sets by the stellar Roots Radics band and singer Peter Broggs had set a warmly enveloping tone, but the real excitement was Isaacs, who seemed to realize he had a lot to make up for, and proceeded to do so.
It was vintage Isaacs, the nasal tenor voice--a silky caress with a knife-edge threat--confidently reprising his "lover's rock" classics, such as "Soon Forward," "All I Have Is Love" and "Night Nurse," complete with the melodious groans, murmured refrains and a newly energized performance. Isaacs' more sociopolitical compositions would have been welcome in the show, but his vitality left his fans reassured, and craving more.