Only in Washington could Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice steal the spotlight from Grammy-winning dancehall artist Shaggy. When Rice showed up at Tuesday evening's Metro World Music concert -- a Kennedy Center Millennium Stage show featuring Shaggy, reggae icon Jimmy Cliff and former Fugees member Wyclef Jean -- camera phones were directed away from the performance and pointed at the former national security adviser as she sort-of danced to Luv Me, Luv Me, one of Shaggy's many crossover reggae tracks.
Condi's modest moves-- some slight knee bending, swaying and head-nodding -- weren't the only spectacle that forced the audience to choose between watching the action on stage and the actions of a group of dignitaries in attendance. In addition to the thousands of regular folks who came to the free outdoor concert, several Caribbean heads of state, in town this week for a conference, showed up at the nearly five-hour event -- and the suits sipping wine partied just as hard as the kids at the front of the stage wrapped in Jamaican flags.
Jamaica's Shaggy (who was preceded by legendary and still perky ska godfathers the Ska-talites) paused during his set to give a "big-up to PM!" The shout-out was meant for Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, who, security detail be damned, got as close to the crowd as she could and sang along with Shaggy's Strength of a Woman and his 1993 remake of the Folkes Brothers' Oh Carolina.
The prime minister was similarly enamored of special guest Cliff, an eleventh-hour addition to the lineup. The reggae ambassador performed You Can Get It if You Really Want and Many Rivers to Cross, both from the soundtrack of "The Harder They Come," the 1972 film he starred in that is widely credited with introducing reggae to a worldwide audience. Cliff, who will turn 60 next year, doesn't sound exactly as he did at the start of his career, but the warm patina of his voice brought new texture to his beloved version of Johnny Nash's I Can See Clearly Now.