The family reggae band were incredible, as well as being one of the nicest and most grateful bands I've possibly ever seen.
An incredibly fitting support for headliners The Skints who would be taking to the stage an hour later, Brooklyn family New Kingston brought their unique take on reggae to Portsmouth. Flying in all the way from New York to go on The Skints’ Nice Time tour, brothers Tahir, Courtney Jr., and Stephen play alongside their father, Courtney Sr., who took part in the reggae scene in New York before teaching his sons about their heritage and Caribbean music alongside R&B, funk and hip-hop influences, taking their knowledge way back throughout the music’s history so they could understand the roots of it.
With a dark stage and the sounds of wind chimes, rain, thunder and lone piano chords raising anticipation for their entrance, they came on with bluesy guitar sounds and smokey red lights for ‘i’ and ‘Come From Far’. With all members except for the bassist, Courtney Sr., singing, their fusion sound of classic reggae with funk and soul made for a twist on a regular reggae band – for the better. Their crowd engagement was on another level, like when keyboardist Tahir got everyone singing the chorus of ‘Come From Far’ as he recorded us “To prove to friends back home that [they came]all this way to play for [us]” to make them look cool, apparently.
Aside from their engagement, their musical ability was outstanding. Bassist Courtney Sr. was doing some of the most intricate fingering I’ve ever seen, and drummer Courtney Jr., while not only being the most enthusiastic drummer I’ve ever, seen, did some very slick drumstick twirls as well as being an extremely talented drummer. With incredibly tight harmonies that could only have come from a family history of playing together (they actually told me afterwards that when other people sing with them, they just can’t quite match New Kingston’s levels of harmonising), they had a clear classic reggae sound at their core with some very nineties R’n’B influences, which was nice to see in a genre which tends to stick with the classic sound. Continuing on with ‘Protect Me’ and ‘Can’t Stop A Man’ (where I noticed Courtney Jr. would sometimes play the final chord of a song by letting his dreadlocks wash over the strings which was very groovy), the gig could have been a New Kingston headliner because the crowd were as engaged with them as they were later with The Skints. They weren’t afraid to mix things up either, like when Tahir left his keyboard and produced a keytar out of nowhere which instantly made the tone rockier, only for it to calm down at the start of the next song, back to their regular chilled out vibe.
For the final night of the tour, and their first time in Portsmouth, I was incredibly pleased with the reception they got. They ended their set with Courtney Jr. introducing the band, telling us how happy he is to be able to play in a band with his brothers, and saying: “As I get older and older I realise how special it is to be on stage with our father, he’s the reason I’m up here,”, gesturing to bassist Courtney Sr. With their songs lyrics full of sentiments about refusing “to be who they want us to be”, about strength, positivity and learning to strengthen yourself, I for one cannot wait until New Kingston are back in the UK.
Listen to their song ‘Come From Afar’ below: