July 10, 1983
New York Times

The reggae singer Peter Tosh was in his best hortatory form Wednesday at the Pier. Raising his arms, pointing his finger and sometimes quoting Scripture while his white robe billowed in the wind, Mr. Tosh looked like an Old Testament prophet with dreadlocks.

And he rode his band’s rocked-up reggae with the fervor and rhythmic flexibility of a gospel evangelist.

Mr. Tosh has a gruff, earthy baritone that, for all its depth, can become monotonous over a full set. That didn’t happen Wednesday. He chose songs carefully, leaning on those with messages – about legalizing marijuana, standing up to oppression and praising the Rastafarian god, Jah – and never singing the same phrase twice.

Unlike many reggae bands, Mr. Tosh’s Word, Sound and Power focused on a different instrument in every arrangement, from a rock lead guitar to Afro-Caribbean percussion to three-part vocal harmonies (such as those of the early Wailers, whom Mr. Tosh left in 1974). They gave the set a poppish variety without leaving reggae behind.

Dennis Brown, who is known in Jamaica for his “lovers’rock” reggae, insisted in his set that “If you’re not loving someone, you’re wasting your time.” He danced vigorously to his band’s reggae grooves, with every limb flailing, yet his relaxed, seductive singing floated phrases airily over the beat. Oddly, his half-hour set included three songs performed by his band alone and just three more with the band and Mr. Brown.