Vintage show Stars ‘R’ Us returns with a bang
When an icon like Beres Hammond has an event as one of his “must attend”, then clearly something is very right. Hammond was numbered among the fans who were present at last Saturday night’s staging of Stars ‘R’ Us at the Ranny Williams Centre on Hope Road, and so too were singers Althea Hewitt, Richie Stephens and Mary Isaacs.
The line-up of this first vintage show in three years featured Ken Boothe, Big Youth, Johnny Clarke, Gem Myers, Leroy Sibbles, George Nooks and Dennis Walks, who was a last-minute replacement for Derrick Morgan, whose absence was due to his wife taking ill suddenly and being hospitalised. Special guest was promoter of the event, Wesrock.
Much to their credit, the organisers started at the advertised 9 p.m. with Fab 5 Band doing the opening honours by entertaining the then sparse crowd with favourites such as Shaving Cream, Jamaican Woman and Asking For Love, a song written in 1978 and which, they told the audience, is “the most played ballad out of Jamaica”.
In introducing the members of the band, Frankie Campbell shared that their guitarist is gravely ill, and also lamented the fact that “we have lost so many vintage acts in the past three years”. But, it was an evening of musical celebration and as the numbers increased, so too did the energy, and Robert Sergeant, the first of the acts backed by Fab 5, set the bar high. Known as Dr Jucki Jucki back in the days when he was a member of the Cartoon Brothers, Sergeant seemed to have lost none of his fluidity, and his movements had the crowd in stitches as he brought some real “star bowy” vibe to Stars ‘R’ Us. He scored with Toots and the Maytals’ Country Road and 54-46, and when he told the audience “If oonu happy and oonu know it mek some noise”, they gladly obliged.
By the time Ken Boothe arrived on stage at 10:40 p.m., the seats had filled out considerably, and patrons had already politely listened to unadvertised acts Eclectic and Steve Tulloch, who made way for Patrick Buddo and singer Dennis Walks, who was a real showman. Ken was not his usual sing-till-him-dripping-with-sweat self. But whatever he may have lacked in movements, the audience more than made up for with total appreciation for songs such as Train Is Coming and Girl I Left Behind Me, and other classics from his extensive repertoire. He has previously mentioned that his eyesight is deteriorating with age, and that bit was apparent as he was assisted both on and off the stage.
Singer George Nooks was another star who shone brightly last Saturday night, and for that he receive an encore. His set was a mix of the secular and the sacred, and songs such as Forty Leg Dread, Stick By Me and Hero received as much favour as God Is Standing By, Ride Out Your Storm, Broken Vessell and a rousing medley of gospel choruses.
An intermission which followed facilitated a band change to cater to reggae country singer Wesrock. Backed by a brilliant aggregation of young musicians and harmony singers Adena Myrie and Nikki Burt, Wesrock had prime-time feature. Dressed in a full-white cowboy suit and hat, he looked impressive as he entered centre stage at midnight, with his presence heralded by a cacophony of vuvuzuelas which distracted from, rather than enhanced, his performance. Among his songs were Born as a Star, She Believes in Me and If Tomorrow Never Comes.
It was then back to regular Fab 5 programming to welcome the only female star of the show, Gem Myers, the singer who thrilled Beres Hammond’s soul during her performance.
“These artistes are the kind of artistes who actually made me appreciate reggae music. I have been to at least 7o per cent of these kinds of shows. As long as I am in Jamaica I come tek it in. To me, this is the real Jamaican sum’p and mi don’t want to mis out on it,” Hammond, who recently returned from tour, shared, as he paused mid-sentence because “mi haffi hear Gem tek this note”.
Gem was all about big tunes, and she rocked the crowd with megahits and had even Big Youth, who was waiting in the wings, dancing the night away.
Beaming with his signature gold-toothed smile, Big Youth, the real OG, was a treat. The Natty Dread Inna Babylon deejayreminded that Stars ‘R’ Us crowd that Every Nigga Is A Star, and took things up a notch with songs such as Screaming Target and Jah Man of Syrene.
It was 1:46 a.m. by the time Johnny Clarke took control of the stage, and he delivered songs such as True Believer in Love, Left With a Broken Heart, Move Outta Babylon and Can’t Escape the Judgement.
The final act for the night was Leroy Sibbles, whose set included a teaching moment. The reputed ‘King of basslines’ took 10 minutes to play all the basslines that he has created. As he moved from one to the other, fans were amazed. It was 3 a.m. when Sibbles exited, having chosen well from his hits to ensure that the crowed stayed with him as he brought the curtains down on Stars ‘R’ Us.