Patrick Widdess reports on Zion Train – The Junction, Cambridge, 1 October 2009

Zion Train
Zion Train – The Junction 2, Cambridge 1 October 2009


There was an upbeat mood from the start at the opening night of Zion Train's UK tour at the Junction. Supporting DJs and MCs had the sound system at full volume pumping out dub and reggae to get the crowd not just warmed up but sweating for the dub/dance pioneers. It has been nearly 20 years since Zion Train burst on the scene with their innovative fusion of dub reggae and electronic music. The band's latest album, Live as One, sees them in fine form and has even yielded a remix album released to coincide with the tour.

Founding member Perch was joined by an MC, saxophonist and trumpeter giving strong live accompaniment to the Zion Train sound system. Perch juggles beats and samples, grabs snatches of the live brass and vocals and sends them looping round in the sound infused with a positive upbeat vibe. At times the music is mellow with slow reggae grooves, deep bass reverberating as the brass section add lighter, soft jazz motifs. A flick of the switch and the beats become more intense, the tempo increases and the area in front of the stage becomes a mosh pit as the MC's voice echoes, booming round the room. The night attracted a mixed audience, though there should have been warning signs about flying dreadlocks!

After a nonstop 30 minute set the band quickly returned to the stage with a couple of new album tracks and ended with a full on dance dub classic. "War in Babylon, War in Babylon..." came over the PA like a battle cry and, as the beats began to drop, pandemonium ensued as the MC lunged about the stage spitting lyrics, the brass players blew fortissimo and a geezer in a trilby hat appeared from nowhere, grabbed the mic, and belted out the chorus to Babylon's Burning by The Ruts. A sonic whirlwind blew up that either sucked you up in an energetic groove or blew you right out the door, ears ringing and heart pounding. A stupendous finale, at the end of which band and audience had nothing more left to give.

Writer: Patrick Widdess