Inner Circle performs in Kaliningrad, Russia Thursday night (from right) Micheal Sterling, Ian Lewis, Lancealot Hall, Skatta Bonic and Roger Lewis.
KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Iron Curtain divided Communist Eastern Europe from the west in 1979. Cold War politics was rigid when reggae band Inner Circle first played the continent that year.
Thirty-five years later and the quintet are back in Europe. The Iron Curtain has long been lifted.
This evening, inner Circle are scheduled to perform in Lithuania. Yesterday, they played Kaliningrad, Russia, once the heart of global Communism.
“We first hit Europe with Jacob (Miller) when we were on Island Records. We toured with the Average White Band and English rocker Ian Dury and did the biggest English outdoor festival of the time, the Reading Festival,” guitarist Roger Lewis, a founding member of Inner Circle, told OBSERVER ONLNE.
Inner Circle’s latest Euro tour began in early July in Slovenia, followed by shows in Austria, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and Russia.
Lewis and his younger brother, bass player Ian Lewis, are the only original members with Inner Circle. Miller, who joined in the mid-1970s, died in an auto accident in 1980.
The older Lewis commented on Europe’s more open political climate.
“The times have definitely changed. Reggae is all over Europe now, even in the east…Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, etc,” he said.
Reggae artistes started making the European festival and club rounds in 1979. Most were signed to major or independent record labels.
Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh and Burning Spear were trailblazers early in the decade.
In the 1980s, Culture, Dennis Brown, Black Uhuru and the Mighty Diamonds were among the acts joining the fray.
Burning Spear was still king of the hill when he cut back on touring eight years ago.
Formed in 1968, Inner Circle are elder statesmen of the reggae tour circuit. Lewis says their European gigs comprise major festivals such as Rototom in Spain to smaller venues that accommodate 1,000 to 4,000 people.
“In the summer, we do a lot of outdoor city festivals where it’s free to come in and we play alongside rock and pop bands, famous and not so famous,” he explained.
Their playlist includes classics which Miller sang, such as ‘Tired fi Lick Weed In a Bush’ and ‘Tenement Yard’ as well as Bad Boys and Sweat, which sparked their remarkable comeback in the early 1990s.
Inner Circle are scheduled to continue its European tour until late August with shows in Estonia, the Rototom Festival, Italy and Portugal.