Iconic, Packaged and Labeled…Awesome! Groovin In The Park 2018

Iconic, sterling, epic, and groovy are just a few of the alluring adjectives that I could use to describe this year’s Groovin In The Park held on Sunday, June 24th.  But what makes this giant production so widely accepted by so many that journey annually within the Tristate and across stateliness to this event?  One word – Vision.

Sterling line up
Known for its all-encompassing repertoire of legendary and up and coming artists, Groovin’s line up was fascinating as they took their audience through the ‘time tunnel’ dating three decades back with rock steady queen Marcia Aitken, reggae, r&b and Jazz crooner, Pam Hall, and the effervescent reggae and artist extraordinaire, June ‘JC’ Carol Lodge in the ‘Women Of Reggae’ segment.  This highly anticipated segment undoubtedly had some obvious hiccups both on and off stage as their apparent scheduled times were shortened leaving them with no alternative but to showcase their hits in crunched time.  However, in the spirit of true professionalism they superb.

Busy Signal’s Redemption
Busy Signal rewrote his script of the previous year and blew all the naysayers to the left with an energetic performance and no delay.  He kicked off his set with “One More Night” “Miss You” “Comfort Zone” “Bedroom Bully”, among other hits that had the crowd in awe; notwithstanding the astounding reality that his extensive musical hits and energy that he brought to the stage was meant to send a message that he is one of the best.

Babyface tipped the scale
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds aka “The Tender Lover” and his amazingly talented vocalists and musicians were lovers, heartbreakers and entertainers all in one set.  Opening with his 1993 hit “For The Cool In You”, and “Every Time I Close My Eyes”, was merely the icebreaker.  Well-choreographed and timely transitions of his selections were precise.  As his saxophonist belted “Never Keeping Secrets” and his lead background vocalist wooed the crowd with “Whip Appeal” and “Sunshine” the patrons were caught off guard.  His voice was captivating.  As their selections synced with the crowds approval, Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Reasons” tipped the scale to the delight of the screaming female fans.

The iconic stars packaged performance was genius.  Hits after hits of songs that he had written and produced for stars over decades kept rolling out – DeBarge “Time Will Reveal”, Midnight Star “Slow Jam”, and a slew of other memorable songs “There You Go”, “When I’m Making Love” “These Are The Times” and “Two Occasions.”

It remains a mystery as to whether or not it was a part of the choreographed finale, but at the “End of The Road” everything became a blur.  Sheer pandemonium!  Babyface removed his shirt and lunged in to the audience.  His security desperately tried to shield him from the women as they touched him even with the tip of their finger nails.  From all indications even the roving cameras lost a bit of footage.  I believe he studied the audience well and knew how to please them.  It was a phenomenal ending.

The ‘Gong’ a true performer
“Affairs Of The Heart” speaks highly of Damian “JR Gong” Marley the international star and son of the legendary Bob Marley and Cindy Breakspeare.  Suave and confident, Gong set the tone for the die hearted Rastafarians as well as “Bald Heads.”  He was consistent and delivered numerous hits from his award-winning albums.  “Meditation” and his spin on “Exodus” and “Could You Be Loved” from his father’s repertoire was a favorite.  “It Was Written” had guest appearance by Capleton who fired up the set.  The long awaited “Welcome To Jamrock” had the crowd in a frenzy.  Gong’s performance was entertaining and complimented this year’s production and finale.

Groovin In The Park exceeded all expectations.  2019 here we come!

Photos by Ustinov Luke