Easy Star All-Stars is a seasoned band of nine who hit the stage for a full house at Irving Plaza Thursday night. I don’t like covers unless the band reworks the song and owns it. Easy Star All-Stars, from the Easy Star label, brings a simple truth to MJ classics, reclaiming thriller for a dub nation.
The female keyboardist was the vocalist on Wanna Be Starting Something, sitting behind her instrument, belting out in a clear voice that got the crowd bouncing. Then came PYT, sung by a hot woman commanding the microphone from the front line. At first you forget it’s an MJ situation because the band brings its signature chemistry. Then the familiar PYT starts and you remember it’s actually a cover band that is doing it right. The rhythm guitarist took the lead vocals on The Girl is Mine. He owned the song the way the hook possesses the girl. Effortless and rhythmic, the band was breezy in its renditions, the songs didn’t feel foreign or forced; it was all island yet all Michael. The album version of The Girl is Mine features Steel Pulse, while Billie Jean has Luciano as guest vocalist.
Funny thing, you don’t expect much from a reggae cover band, you expect a good party and Irving was. Crowded, upbeat, good times for all. But you don’t expect a 9-piece display of talent like Easy Star. Arrangements, sound, instrumental delivery, vocals, it was a prized performance. Seeing Easy Star play NYC was different, it reminded me of traveling and catching a tight band on tour abroad, with a stop in Berlin or Copenhagen.
It wasn’t hard to see why fans showed up en mass to enjoy an MJ tribute worthy of the man himself.