Hails of “Jah Rastafari!” could be heard from a tight space backstage at the Ambassador Bar and Grill in Kingston on Monday night. It was roots singer Jesse Royal joined by a brethren in prayer, mere moments before he hit the stage.
Outside, clusters of marijuana smoke accentuated the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd which just bore witness to and basked in the impressive vocal nuances of Sevana. After a brief intermission with selections from XTM Nation sound, it was showtime.
Held the crowd captive
With spliff in hand and a full acoustic band, Jesse navigated a musically masterful set with songs like Modern Day Judas, done jazz style, with a groovy, pulsating bassline that held the crowd captive. In true Jesse style, he threw in the occasional anecdotes, quite reminiscent of his inspirational video posts on Instagram. In his performance of Black Woman (which drew bars from Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop), he posited that God must be a woman, as he spoke about the strength and vigour of the female.
His seamless sampling of other music was also well-received in his performance of Broken Wings, which incorporated Vybz Kartel’s Loving Every Minute. The love for the ‘World boss’ continued with the performance of More Than You Receive, the Kartel-Jesse collab that had all phones out and warranted an encore. Same was the case for Lion Order, and Jesse’s musical odes continued with his styling of Bob Marley’s Who the Cap Fit.
A spiritual thing
Though he was the night’s main act, Jesse opted to share the stage with singers Unga and Welch, and with a skank here and two-step there, called on Kemar Highcon to add more sauce to the show.
For Jesse, the performance was gloriously fun, yet spiritual.
“I always have fun on stage, it’s always an experience for me,” he told BUZZ. “Music to me is a very spiritual thing when you get fi connect with your soul in a way where everything else is blacked out. Being on a stage for me is truly one the highest points in my life because it’s literally the only time that all yaa do is connect with that oneness and energy, and you literally have to be in the moment, right there and then.”
Theme of love
Also in her element was melanin songstress Sevana, who could easily cop a medal for best vocal acoustic delivery, if there was ever one. Rocking her signature slick-back hairstyle and an all-white pants set (designed by her brother, Davin Blake), the singer kept it bare minimum with guitarist Almando, and Jovi on background vocals.
Nobody Man was a clear favourite, as female patrons formed an impromptu choir, belting the chorus of the song which rejects any association with the side chick lifestyle. Sevana’s sample of Vanessa Bling’s One Man in the performance was pretty bossy, and the audience was here for it.
Continuing on the theme of love, she sang Sometime Love and Bit Too Shy, which caught some folks rocking and singing along. She showed some vulnerability on Carry You, a gospel-inspired track penned for her brother, and added a tat of VaShawn Mitchell’s Nobody Greater. She also denounced the domestic murders which have continued into 2020, before offering Haul and Pull.
See more pictures from UNPLUGD in the gallery below.
The night was special for the singer, who said it had been over three months since she performed in Jamaica
“Acoustic is one of my favourite ways to perform. It’s one instrument, preferably a guitar, and my voice. There’s nothing like it and yuh can’t replicate it with a live band,” Sevana told BUZZ. “I feel like my synergy with Almando is really good, so we always work good together, so I really enjoyed it.”
Patrons were also pleased.
“I thought it was well-orchestrated; live music is always a good time and the vibe was also good,” Mikhael McLeod said. “Sevana is my girl, I don’t listen enough of Jesse’s music, I really came for Sevana, but Jesse was really good.”
Janielle Morgan added: “This evening was a wonderful experience. I must say it was fantastic to see Jamaicans and especially young Jamaicans come out to commemorate Reggae Month. Jesse Royal was fantastic of course, Sevana was hot, and the crowd was amazing.”