As the threat of inclement weather loomed early Friday evening at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell, reggae star Jimmy Cliff started his show five minutes early.
Even so, his fans heard just a 20-minute set before the announcement came that the festival was closing due to the approaching storm.
Country star Keith Urban’s set at the Acura Stage and Wilco’s Gentilly Stage performance were among the other shows cut short.
Cliff didn’t waste any time during his brief time on the Congo Square Stage. He strode swiftly to the microphone, arms raised in a salute. He opened with the Rastafarian classic, “Rivers of Babylon.” And before the deluge, reggae in the rain was lovely, as Cliff and several of his band members sat singing, accompanied only by their percussion instruments.
When Cliff performed another empowering reggae classic, “You Can Get It If You Really Want It,” he kicked and danced frenetically between lyrics. “Wild World,” the Cat Stevens song, followed. Showman Cliff extended his arms away from his body during the song’s keyboard solo, playing air piano with both sets of fingers.
As the thunder grew louder, Cliff ended with “Sitting in Limbo.” Much of the song featured soothing meter and volume. It faded to what seemed like the end before shifting dramatically to a crescendo and Cliff’s final words: “Yes, they’re putting up resistance, but I know that the truth will set me free.”
The Jazz Fest continues Saturday, Sunday and April 30 through May 1.