Wha.. it dun a’ready? There are many ways to look at VP’s Records mega-mammoth Memorial Weekend Concert (Sunday May 29), but one of the obvious is the unsatisfying and perhaps premature end to the show at about 12:15 am Monday morning. That was just 15 or so minutes into the set of Buju Banton. Banton was heard to be begging ‘di offisa’ for the chance to do one more song ‘fa di people’, but he found out that this was not the Jamaican police… it was pull the plug now! No ifs or buts. How do you measure success? There are many ways to measure success and VP’s stocks should come out pretty high. With a crowd of well over 10,000, and with them being faithful to of their favorites, VP has reason to glow over its coterie of artistes. The show was not held at the usual Bayfront Amphitheatre but rather in the park next to it. This was wise anticipation that the former venue could in no way hold the crowd, or the large number of vendors. It was to VP’s marketability and credibility, that it was able to garner so many vendors for the event.
As a promotion for its artistes, VP raised the profile of many of them, several of whom have new albums, just released or in the works. The concert definitely met VP’s goals, and the demands of the massive. But there are other things to consider. De-press I don’t know if there is a rift between VP and some sections of the entertainment press, or it’s a failure of someone’s planning, but once again the press got the short end. Though the writing press was put into the VIP section, this was far enough away from the stage to necessitate a telescope to even see what the artiste was wearing on stage. But as a photographer, I was more than peeved at the arrangements for legitimate picture-takers. My editors want active pictures, not the paparazzi style ops of artistes smiling blandly, and often times inanely, into the camera with their arms around some dignitary or something. There was no real pit area, and what there was, was right under the artistes’ noses, with little room for maneuver. Morever, it was only available after Freddie McGregor’s set, and pretty soon the small, cramped space was overrun by many who just wanted a closer look at their idols. The case of the cell/cameraphone nightmare. The show The show started about 6:15pm. This was later to prove important, since time ran out on Banton. Freddie McGregor, always a crowd favorite, was the first artiste up and he ran through his most popular selections. He was followed by the ‘fireman’ Capleton, and if you are into screaming incoherence, and expletives, then Capleton is your man. But there is no doubting his crowd appeal. He gave the crowd exactly what they wanted. He was followed by the ultimate dancehall performer, Beenie Man. No matter what you think about him, he is the consummate showman. Fan satisfaction is always his premier goal and again he succeeded.. Next came Luciano, he of conscious lyrics, boundless energy and one of the best voices in reggae. But it was apparent that the Memorial show was geared more to dancehall than consciousness. T
he massive gave the army-uniformed Messenger his due respect, but these were not really his mainstream fans. It was good however, to see and hear his musical director, Dean Fraser on back-up vocals and saxophone. The gaps between the artistes were not long and in fact the show appeared to run rather smoothly. I can’t really say exactly where they went off-track but I would guess that at least one of the artistes overstayed their time. What I can say is that it would not be considered inappropriate if the interlude DJ got some Tasering… if only to spare the ears of the crowd from his high-pitched screeching. Elephant Man followed Luciano, and he was the artiste that drove the massive into a frenzy. All his antics, including the climbing of the stage scaffolding, were guaranteed to drive the crowd wild. One youth, with clearly more beer than he could handle, tried to climb the barriers, and had to be forcibly wrestled away by the security. When Elephant Man himself jumped into the crowd, I can only guess that some in the security almost had heart attacks. They certainly wouldn’t understand that dancehall artistes don’t operate in a vacuum separate and apart from their fan base. The girls in the front went into near hysteria. Woooaaah.
Sizzla came next, not showing any obvious wear from his time spent under the hospitality of the Jamaican authorities. Not being one who has closely followed Sizzla’s career, I feel that his set was more carnal that conscious. The same can be said of Buju Banton’s 15 minutes… more ‘Boom-bye-bye’ and ‘Champion’ than ‘Til Shiloh’. Banton has been away from the stage for some time and the rust is apparent. He didn’t muster up the usual energy, but then again, that might have been because he wasn’t given enough time to get into stride. All in all, the show was extremely satisfying for the massives and lived up to the billing. Just the ending… more like a premature ejaculation than a climax.