Pato Banton Circles the Globe and Returns Home to SoCal

Banton strode onstage last night in Solana Beach while his band held down a slinky low key melody. He then gave a spoken word intro to the evening.
He surprised many when he revealed he lives nearby, in Lake Elsinore. The current wildfires brought the neighbors together, he said.

“Why does it take a tragedy to bring us together,” he wondered out loud.

He then had us high five our neighbors, and he was off and skanking. One hopes his gig a week from now in his hometown is still good to go, one of many on the current leg of his tour up and down the left coast.
In vintage reggae fashion Banton’s band (The Now Generation) was loose and tight at the same time. His live sampling included Marley’s “One World” and “Message in a Bottle” from The Police, and a tasty snippet from Lalo Schifrin’s “Mission Impossible” theme.

Riffing on ragamuffins and roots rock in “Reggae Party” Banton had all feet in motion. The song was one of the highlights of his live release recorded on the same Belly Up stage three years ago. Banton’s vocal delivery is akin to rap, which he was doing long before that style gained traction. Banton got purely melodic with a quick snippet of The Rascal’s “Groovin’.” I would have liked to hear more.
Banton’s roots are in northern England; the industrial town of Birmingham schooled him in the power of music to connect with people. He playfully called out folks in the Solana Beach crowd who were insufficiently grooving to the beat.
Banton outgrew the Birmingham scene after a succession of awards, and soon rose to further fame in the 80s via collaborations with Tippa Irie, UB40, as well as with Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling (the latter often performs in SoCal with his English Beat).
A decade later Banton’s recordings were topping charts in South America, Down Under and across the UK. He also laid down roots in San Diego. Further international exposure was garnered via well-received gigs as part of Peter Gabriel’s brilliant WOMAD tours.
The Belly Up setlist continued with more Marley touchpoints (as is often the case with reggae artists): “Jammin’” and “Roots Rock Reggae” were mashed up effectively.

At the turn of the century Banton took a sabbatical, and returned to Birmingham were he set up successful music schools in the community. The BBC recognized his efforts with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The ensuing years found Banton back on the road, touring to steady acclaim.
His current band was finely tuned at the Belly Up. Gavin Thompson held down the engine room of the beat, getting many notes from the five strings of his bass. Guitarist Andy Kushner and keyboardist Antoinette Rootsdawtah were gliding through the melodies in fine form, and dueling percussionists Dameian Swan and Oneko Arika maintained da riddim.

Banton brought his global vibrations to the steamy Belly Up stage, and all were delighted.

(photos by Brad Auerbach)



Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.