I like to think of the Steady Betty concert from March 2 in Dibden as a two-layered cake. The icing was not smooth and well decorated, but both layers of cake were moist and satisfying, and the icing melted in the mouth. The bottom layer of the cake was a rich chocolate flavor and arguably the most important part of any band: the rhythm section. The bass player, Caroline O’Connor, and the drummer, Rachel Capobianco, were in sync and on top of their game right from the get-go, keeping time and generally acting as the foundation — the bottom layer, if you will — of the whole band.
The band didn’t hop right into its groove, however. The vocalists’ harmonies failed a couple of times in “Love Me Forever” and “I Shall Sing,” and the audience took its time to warm up to Steady Betty. It’s no wonder the audience felt unsure at first, as it appeared nobody knew anything about the band before it showed up. I heard Steady Betty was ska, reggae and soul, each on separate occasions.
Their genre is actually called rocksteady. As the lead singer, Miriam Bernardo, explained halfway through their set, rocksteady was the transitional genre between the formation of ska and reggae in the ‘60s.
Despite the lack of foreknowledge, the audience did warm up to Steady Betty, and the vocalists did find their groove a few songs in. By “Cherry Oh Baby,” a decent crowd of dancers had gathered near the stage to sway for a while; the rocksteady genre, while not as slow as reggae, is not conducive to vigorous dancing.
The top layer of the cake would be the horns, guitar and vocals. The horn section, including alto sax, baritone sax, tenor sax and trumpet, was great, entering on time and playing well together with every refrain. Linda Bassick on guitar also played well, syncopated and cheerful. Bernardo, Kat Wright, Bassick and Capobianco blended their voices beautifully once they fell into their groove, although occasionally the vocals were so loud they drowned out the band.
The icing of this Steady Betty cake was the solos. While each lead from the guitar and the saxophones deserved all of the whoops and cheers they received from the audience (which was loud and appreciative), this brings me to the highlight of the roughly 80 minute concert.
The band had been straight grooving for a little less than an hour, Bernardo dancing and singing the entire time. They started “I’m Still in Love.” Bass and drums were in lock; horns played their refrains; vocalists proclaimed that they were still in love in typical, beautiful rocksteady harmony. Then entered the alto sax, Zoe Harris, who played a sweet, soft and sensual solo. This solo was gorgeous and dreamy; as good as the rest of the evening was, I wanted this alto sax to solo for the rest of the night.
Alas! It ended, and here we have a two layered cake with icing: rhythm section; horns, vocals and guitar; and solos with finesse. The band was not perfect, as the cake was not decorated, but it was a damn good cake and a damn good concert. Bernardo and Capobianco interacted with the audience during pauses; they were animated and friendly. The audience was also interactive and full of great energy.
Unmentioned thus far were Margot Van Horne on trumpet, Allison Frazier on bari sax and Meghan Waterhouse on tenor sax, each of whom performed just as well as everyone else on stage that night.
Admission to this event was free, and it counted for a Creative Audience. If you missed the chance this time around, Steady Betty will be performing again on Friday, March 10 at Higher Ground, and you’ll have to buy a ticket.