Live Review: Katchafire, Common Kings

22 October 2013 | 5:10 pm | Cameron Warner

Katchafire’s sound was perfect, passing on good vibes and ultra-chill sounds to the eager and gloriously stoned crowd.

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In an international affair at Sydney's Big Top, the South Pacific-born, Orange County-bred Common Kings opened for New Zealand's hottest reggae export Katchafire before an audience made up mainly of Kiwis, though with a large Australian and South American component (a crowd survey from Logan Bell sorted that out).

Common Kings, fronted by the exceptionally talented vocalist JR King, were exceptional. Formerly a cover band, Common Kings didn't shy away from borrowing songs from other artists, starting and finishing their set with a huge mash-up that saw them take on Michael Jackson, then everything from Niggas In Paris to Fun's We Are Young. In between these monster mash-ups was 40 minutes of soulful R&B with elements taken from reggae, rock'n'roll and Motown. People seemed to know, but didn't know they knew, R&B anthem Alcoholic causing dancing and clumsy attempts to lyricise.

The tiny orange glows on people's fingertips being passed from friend to friend and the cloud of particularly 'reggae-scented' smoke above the crowd had the audience feeling dandy, and still on a high from Common King's set, before Luna Park collectively lost its shit as Katchafire emerged.

The multi-talented sax demon Jamey Ferguson sang Groove Again first, his high-pitched and ultra-chilled-out vocals just one quarter of the vocal talent that has made Katchafire such a big deal. Haani Totorewa and Jordan Bell pitched in vocally, shirking their respective keyboard and bongo duties, but Logan Bell's frontman talents held the band together for the monster two-hour, 20-song set.

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The smoke cloud overhead thickened with the opening notes of Collie Herb Man, and other favourites, Seriously and Get Away, brought out Sydney's inner Rasta. Bringing Common Kings back out for Bob Marley's Three Little Birds kind of felt like cheating – you would have to be made of stone to not close your eyes, throw your head back and groove to that. But Katchafire's sound was perfect, passing on good vibes and ultra-chill sounds to the eager and gloriously stoned crowd.