Review Reggae Sundance 9th August 2014 (Eindhoven, Netherlands), featuring Beenie Man, I Octane, Romain Virgo, Luciano, Kabaka Pyramid, Iba Mahr, John Holt, UB40!
This year’s two day’s event came with a very promising line-up. Daniel Bambaata Marley cancelled just about a week before the festival, but instead the organization gave us I-Octane, and a few days later Romain Virgo was added too as a big surprise! With also Beenie Man, Kabaka Pyramid, Jesse Royal, Iba Mahr and Luciano (to name a few)on Saturday’s stages, enough reasons for a visit!
First to kick off the festival on main stage was Iba Mahr. Although it wasn’t very crowded yet, it didn’t temper man’s enthusiasm. He came up with a good and uptempo setlist, with songs like ‘Set Away’ and ‘Let Jah Lead The Way’. Iba Mahr has a good and relaxed performance, a strong voice and a positive message, and actually deserved much more audience.
Next to appear on stage was Kabaka Pyramid, immediately hitting the growing audience with his ‘Rebel Music’. Kabaka too proved to be a great live performer. He got some nice moves on stage, meanwhile singing his songs with ease like it hardly costs him any effort. And with tunes like ‘Free From Chains’, ‘No Capitalist’ and ‘Rebel With A Cause’ he surely got the crowd moving.
After Kabaka Pyramid, some difficult choice should be made. Next on main stage was Jesse Royal, but meanwhile on second ‘Yard Stage’ rising star Romain Virgo was about to perform.
And Romain Virgo it would be. With two strong albums and a meanwhile huge range of great songs on several riddims, he had enough material to choose from. From the moment he came up, he won the audience with his contagious enthusiasm. Although the sound on Yard Stage was pretty poor, Romain’s voice is that strong that it didn’t hardly affect his show.
He really gave everything he had, with tunes like ‘Love Doctor’ and ‘No Money’. Het built up his show very well, running from one song into the other, sometimes only interrupted by an “Ace!”, working to a real climax: First with two of his best songs on the same riddim, ‘Dem A Coward’ and ‘Food Fi Di Plate’, then songs like ‘Beat You Down’ and ‘Wha Dis Pon Me’ to eventually punch the knock-out with the hitsong ‘We No Worry’. Normally a duet with Konshens, but at that point Virgo took the song completely on his own.
Today Romain Virgo really proved himself to be the next big star of reggae/dancehall. Only thing he could improve a little more is the interaction with the audience. If he learns to play with the audience like for example I Octane and Beenie Man can, than nothing can stop him from becoming one of the next top-a-di-top artists. Big up!
After, the Yard stage was reserved for I Octane and his great “Conquer The Globe Band”. He opened strong with “Buss A Blank”, and then continued with performing lots of his hits like ‘Gyal Gimmi Bun’, ‘Love You Like I Do’ and ‘Stepping In The Name Of Love’.
I Octane too was hindered by a poor sound, but not at all by his injured arm (from a fall from stage a week before). In contrary: He showed why he probably hurt himself earlier, for he jumped on the P.A.’s and from stage, almost making him fall several times again. Meanwhile, I Octane of course paid lot of attention to the ladies, first by picking one on stage, later by looking for others almost in between the crowd.
It first was a very energetic performance, but in contrary to Romain Virgo, I Octane didn’t build up his show very well. All his energy was put into the first part, leaving him ending his show with only lots of slow and quiet songs. Maybe a little anti-climax, but despite that ánd the poor sound, I Octane still showed us why he’s one of the biggest stars from the moment.
Talking about big stars: After taking some pause, back to main stage for Beenie Man was about to perform.
The band built up the tension, and then Beenie directly hit very hard by opening with nothing less than his classic ‘Murderation’ tune! And it became even better, for the King Of Dancehall had chosen to start with a whole package of classic 90’s hits, continuing with: ‘Who Am I’, ‘Romie’, ‘Girls Dem Sugar’, ‘Let Him Go’, ‘Bookshelf’ and then ‘Tell Me’. With such a start, a Beenie-show is already a success, no matter what would happen next.
But it’s Beenie right, so next things to happen still was high grade performing. Varying from nowadays hits to some older tunes, meanwhile playing with the audience like no other than Beenie Man can. Using his special moves, manners and looks, he exactly knows how to get the crowd in a stage of complete excitement.
And then, by surprise, the band started the ‘One Day Riddim’, Beenie sung ‘I’m Okay’, immediately followed by a “I’m drinking Rum (And Redbull)”. Hey, wasn’t this song together with Future Fambo? Oh yeah, and there he was! Just for this only song, Fambo jumped on stage!
After Beenie, it took some time to prepare the main stage, for a very special event was about to take place: The Royal Symphony of Reggae! A unique project, for the first time to been seen in Europe, bringing Reggae together with Classical Music. As today’s host Mutabaruka said: This is a next step in the evolution of Reggae!
The music would be taken care of by The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra together with Jamaica’s ‘Skool Band’ and Dean Fraser, the voices by John Holt, Luciano and Ali Campbell.
John Holt started the show, and what a great voice the man still has! He also made us remember the enormous amount of hit songs and influence he’s got in our beloved music scene: Just think of ‘A Love I Can Feel’, ‘Tide Is High’, ‘Ali Baba’, ‘If I Was A Carpenter’ just to name a few, they all came along. With this extraordinary sound of ‘classical’ reggae! Thank you Mr. Holt for this amazing lesson in history of Reggae Music!
After John Holt, it was the turn to Luciano to show his skills. Coming up in a great suit, he immediately took off with ‘Give Praise’, following by almost all his classic roots tunes. Remarkably most of the performed songs were taken from two of his classic 90’s albums “Where There Is Life” and “Messenger”: ‘Never Give Up My Pride’, ‘He Is My Friend’, ‘Who Can It Be Now’, ‘Over The Hills’, ‘it’s Me Again Jah’, ‘Lord Give Me Strength’. And of course ‘Sweep Over My Soul’ came along!
Luciano was in a very good mood, he appeared to be very acrobatic and flexible still, for he made salto’s and splits (!) on stage, jumping on the P.A.’s and climbing off stage to hug the audience and wave some rasta flag! The crowd nearly got mad, as well as the orchestra, for Luciano in all his enthusiasm started to improvise, leaving the orchestra in despair sometimes. It really was a great and memorable show!
And then it was time for Ali Campbell and Astro to finish the show (and day). After all great performances we’ve seen throughout the day, what a deception this turned out to be… Of course they played their UB40 hitsongs like ‘Red Red Wine’, ‘Here I Am’ and ‘Kingston Town’, as well as some songs of their beginning, like ‘Ivory Madonna’ and ‘Folitician’. But OMG, what happened to them? Ali looked very uninspired, annoyingly chewing a gum, and constantly looking at the monitors like he didn’t know his own over-and-over played hits anymore?! And Astro’s voice was very poor and soft. And not even giving an encore?! No, this was not a dignified finish of such a great day. But hey, enough beautiful things did happen, so just forget about it.
After all, it was a remarkable day. For me, Romain Virgo was the sensation of the day; Beenie Man and Luciano gave their usual best, John Holt was majestic, I Octane met the expectations, Kabaka Pyramid and Iba Mahr really showed off their skills and talents. And all that just happened on one single day at Reggae Sundance, with Busy Signal, Tarrus Riley, Shaggy and Tanya Stephens (to name a few) waiting for the next day…