Reggae rules at Reggae Sumfest International Night

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neyo_stmSave for R&B star Ne-Yo, there was a certain disconnection between the other foreign acts and the audience last Friday at Reggae Sumfest International Night.

It’s not that R&B young’un Jazmine Sullivan and songwriter-cum-solo star Keri Hilson gave bad showings, but there was no real spark, no chemistry with the crowd. Entering the stage in his signature paperboy Kangol, a white shirt rolled up to his elbows, black vest and matching pants, Ne-Yo shone with his impressive repertoire that kept swooning tweens-and even adult women-screaming. The singer opened with Because Of You and Stay, his debut single from the In My Own Words album ahead of covering the late Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall.

“Where my single ladies at?” Ne-Yo posed. “For the next three minutes and 30 seconds I’ll be your boyfriend” That was the preamble for his tune Single, which segued into Sexy Love, Mad, Part Of The List and his first big single So Sick.

The artiste, known for his female-friendly power ballads, praised the liberated women in a presentation that was akin to a Sunday morning sermon, before singing She Got Her Own and the popular Miss Independent. Ne-Yo surprised the audience when he pulled up the track and ordered the deejay to spin Vybz Kartel and Spice’s Romping Shop, which presides over the same beat as Miss Independent.

“Shout out to Vybz Kartel,” he said to much applause and screams. The R&B star whose 2008-released Year Of The Gentleman junior album was a smash hit, finished his nearly hour-long set with Closer, the first single from that album.

His fellow R&B star, Jazmine Sullivan, showed off her powerhouse vocals, but her set wasn’t as entertaining as it could have been. She reeled off popular songs from her album Fearless, including Bust Your Windows, Lions, Tigers & Bears, Dream Big, the doo-wop-flavoured Switch, ahead of closing with the reggae-inspired Need U Bad.

Keri Hilson’s set was more entertaining, but even sleek spandex, sex-appeal and ultra-cool dance moves weren’t enough to leave one hungry for more. To say the least, she was ordinary, despite delivering familiar songs like Energy and Turnin’ Me On. The R Kelly, TLC and Mary J Blige tributes didn’t do much for her, either.none of it was mind-blowing.

Though it was International Night, it was nevertheless reggae that was the star of the show.

Just ask Coco Tea, who gave a brilliant showing before the three-hour-long foreign act segment. The veteran singer delivered a silky-smooth rendition of Air Supply’s Here I Am (Just When I Thought) and Bob Marley’s One Drop before closing with his recent radio hit, Barack Obama.

A notable, but not excellent, showing did come from Morgan Heritage. The band performed familiar favourites and gave the audience a taste of material from each of their solo efforts.

“We love R&B, love hip-hop, but a lot of people have travelled to Jamaica this weekend to hear reggae,” Petah Morgan informed. The Morgan Heritage lead singer also dispelled rumours that the group comprising siblings had disbanded.

“We are individuals; we just want people to know that,” Morgan said before asking his brother MoJo to sing Roxanne, a song about prostitution.

His big brother, Gramps, gave a soulful solo showing with Come Back To Bed and Washed In Tears. Petah Morgan performed his solo song Secrets and the group reconvened for Your Best Friend.

The penultimate act, Queen Ifrica entered the stage at approximately 5:30 am and, riding on the relative success of her new album Montego Bay, she preened for her city.

It was a queen’s welcome indeed. The audience cheered her as she delivered Brown Skin, Welcome To Montego Bay, Below The Waist and Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror and Lioness On The Rise.

There was, too, the socially-piercing, anti-paedophiliac sensibilities of No Bwoy and Daddy, which she delivered en espanol.

The closing act was Jah Cure, who entered the stage at 6:30 wearing Gucci. Wrapping his soulful, raspy tones around tracks like Sticky, True Reflection and Longing For, the Rasta man represented himself well and finished up with Call On Me.

The show ended some minutes after seven and by that time much of the audience had already left.many had just turned out to see Ne-Yo. The Reggae Sumfest music festival closed this morning with International Night II, on which Toni Braxton, Damion ‘Jr Gong’ Marley and Nas were billed to perform.

BY ROLAND HENRY

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