By Contributed Article
New York, USA: It may have been a soca-laden bill, but that didn't stop the night's sole dancehall performer, local star Macka Diamond from shining at Machel Montano and Friends inside The WaMu Theatre, Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
The night featured two sold-out shows, one beginning at 8:00 pm and the other at 12:00 midnight, which both saw artistes from the region bringing the heat, even as the mostly Caribbean audience (who all churned out US$80 for admission) maxed up the vibe.
Donning a fairy-inspired number with Betsey Johnson appeal - designed by New York's answer to 'Biggie', the well-known 'Goldteeth' of Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn - Macka joined soca 'divette' Patrice Roberts on stage even as the audience erupted to the introductory strains of Hulla Hoop. The 'money goddess' engaged the audience in the fun dance move of the same name, all the while rotating her hips as if the plastic toy were around her waist. In BlackER's absence, the diamond princess found a good understudy for him in Roberts, who joined her on Bun Him.
It was less dancehall and more soca stylings, but the 8,000-strong audience seemed to love it and screamed every chance they got.
The screaming continued when headliner Montano returned to the stage after his first set which included renditions of Higher Than High, Insane, Delirious and Big Truck. There were also samples aplenty, the more memorable ones being Bob Marley's Waiting In Vain; Tony Matterhorn's 2006-relaese-turned-global-phenom, Dutty Wine and even a dabble in alternative/soft rock with Vanessa Carlton's A Thousand Miles.
"Two shows were sold out in one night at Madison Square Garden," said Montano, his right leg atop the monitor while he basked seemingly in disbelief of what he had accomplished, "give soca, calypso, the Caribbean a big hand."
The applause proved an apt segue for younger soca acts like Ricky T on Pressure; the cowboy-esque stylings of Shall Marshall on Gal Farm, Farmer Nappy on the ever-so-catchy Own Woman and Young Grandmaster, who calls the late, great calypsonian Lord Kitchener grandfather.
But no musical celebration is ever worth it without paying homage to its foundation.
The indomitable Mighty Sparrow and Montano were a dynamo of a duo, performing Kitchener's Sugar Bum Bum and crowd-favourite Congo Man about an African cannibal 'eating' two white women. As sexual innuendos flew the two men treated the audience to an "old man, young bwoy" wine-off, but neither was declared the winner since they both held their own.
"A tek off ma jacket 'cause a hot," declared Montano, females in the audience favourably responding to the obvious pun.
The sexual innuendo subsided to give way to talks about regionalisation.
And aparently that meant performing tracks from his fellow soca singers' catalogue, including Bajan soca queen Alison Hinds' Roll It, which was of course accompanied by 'rolling'; Destra's It's Carnival and Flags In The Air.
"When we come together we pulsate, we have so much vibrancy and colour as a people. I want you to further join in on the synergy," Montano shared before going into Ready For Mas Again and Rollin featuring Roberts, who inspired the raising of colourful flags well into the wee hours of Saturday morning, especially on her still-popular Band Of The Year.
The concert ended with a grand showcasing of stilt-men in dazzling red, black and white costumes, a troupe of dancers and all the soca performers taking a jab at free styling before their collective bows.