One of the new events on this yearend's social calendar, Reggaelution, the $3,500 per person, all-inclusive session, despite teething pains, tried to live up to expectations . But whether or not it was a financial success is another story.
With performances scheduled to start at 11:00 pm, a fact which took many patrons completely by surprise, Reggaelution was designed along a 'party' concept, complete with dancefloor in the field of Knutsford Boulevard's Liguanea Club. The idea was for patrons to party from 7:30 until it was time for the live performances from Rootz Underground, Etana, Buju and Tarrus Riley. However, there must have been some communication block, since the bulk of the patrons arrived between 9:00 and 10:00 pm, expecting showtime.
Delano and the Renaissance crew did a commendable job of creating great vibes with their on-point selections which even had some of the more stoic swaying to the beats of reggae and dancehall. They gave way to the reggae/rock sound of openng act, Rootz Underground, a seemingly deep-rooted Jah-based outfit that has claimed its share of the reggae pie. With a new album out and extensive touring underway Rootz Underground delivered well and must have converted more fans to their already growing fan base.
Rootz frontman, Steven was in fine form, and so too were the band members. Included in their repertoire were The System, which they used to close their set to much applause.
Then it was Etana's turn . and she just dazzled. It was just a year ago that she was one of the opening acts on Welcome to Jamrock, a show on which Rootz Underground also performed, but then, they received higher billing. At Jamrock, she was the still-a-bit-shy Etana with two big tunes and two others that people knew; she did her thing and left. This time around, she is the big star Etana who commands our attention, has an album chockful of goodies and thousands of fans who hang on to her every word.
Confident, yet still humble despite her success, she was eager to please and totally enjoying the pleasing her fans, Etana poured her soul into her performance, and the people loved it. Her close to one hour set included the standards from her debut album, Wrong Address, Jah Chariot, Roots, Warrior Love and Jah Blessing which she performed with her back-up singer Ruel 'Klyve' Moncrieffe. Thrown in for good measure was a tribute to reggae queen Marcia Griffiths which included Feel Like Jumping and Truly.
Etana made her exit, which set the stage for the arrival of none other than the man of the moment, the Gargamel, Buju Banton. Dressed in a black T-shirt, white pants and spanking new black shoes which sparkled, Buju gave a very visual, high energy performance with body language taking the place of real deejaying. However, the expertise of the band and the three female back-up singers disguised this because as soon as Buju pulled a phrase from any of his songs and the crowd erupted, the girls seamlessly picked up where he dropped off, even in mid sentence.
For close to 40 minutes, Buju deejayed what turned out to be the first of his two-part performance. And, this is where the promoters erred. Although Tarrus Riley was billed as a surprise guest, when patrons saw Buju take the stage, performing what could be interpreted as a full set, people started streaming out of the venue in an effort to beat the closing show rush. It wasn't until much later that Buju took a break and made way for Tarrus and his musicians.
Riley performed masterfully, dropping tunes at the feet of his willing audience who loved every minute of his delivery. His set included the popular Beware, Lion Paw, Far Away, his cover of John Legend's Stay With You and of course, the anthem, She's Royal. One highlight was an instrumental/ vocal tete-a-tete with his musical director, noted saxaphonist Dean Fraser.
Buju then returned to bring the curtains down on what was an evening of superb performances in a comfortable setting with an appreciative audience. Kudos to the organisers for offering such a quality presentation which is a much-needed respite in these days of austerity and cash-crunching.
- Yasmine Peru & Richard Johnson