At 62, Jimmy Cliff treats a massive stage like a dancehall at Mile High Music Festival

Brian Landis Folkins
Jimmy Cliff on the Kyocera main stage.
Jimmy Cliff, 3:45 p.m. on the Kyocera Main Stage

Jimmy Cliff and his band delivered all of the expected musical components within the first strains of their hour-plus set.

The godfather of roots reggae and his ensemble set down a set composed of syncopated beats, choppy 2/2 guitar accompaniment and standards of the genre, including multiple selections from the Harder They Come soundtrack.

But Cliff's performance included deeper cuts and cues, elements that pointed to the roots of the reggae and the richer history of Jamaican music. Since the release of The Harder They Come in 1972, Cliff has stood as an undisputed giant in the reggae genre, having helped to forge the genre from ska and calypso antecedents.

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Brian Landis Folkins
Jimmy Cliff on the Kyocera main stage.
It's a legacy and a musical history that showed clearly in Cliff's mid-afternoon set. Cliff's backup band provided an intro worthy of a heavyweight boxing champion, touting the artist as a "musical legend" and citing his recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With regal horn lines and syncopated rhythms as background, Cliff entered, clad in a yellow long-sleeved shirt and full pants, wearing a tri-colored Jamaican scarf around his neck.

As he broke into "Wonderful World, Beautiful People," his energy was unrestrained. He gesticulated, he gestured, he cocked his fists and closed his eyes during the more emotional segments of the opening tunes. His opening selection included references to his most historic work -- versions of "Sitting Here in Limbo" and "You Can Get It If You Really Try" from the seminal 1972 album were among the first selections.

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Brian Landis Folkins
A member of Jimmy Cliff's band on the Kyocera main stage.
Along with a cover of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" and Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now," Cliff offered passionate and energetic versions of "Rivers of Babylon" and "Save Our Planet Earth."

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