The crowd at the free Dennis Brown tribute concert extended from the Bank of Jamaica building to Victoria Pier at the Kingston Waterfront on Sunday.
The annual event, orchestrated by the Dennis Brown Trust, music producer Trevor ‘Leggo’ Douglas and the Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange led-entertainment ministry, welcomed pouring odes to the Crown Prince of Reggae, who would have turned 63 on February 1.
With his catalogue spanning more than 70 albums, the musical options were infinite for those on the roster, which ranged from the seasoned to the newbies, some backed by Brown’s Lloyd Parks and We the People Band.
Staples on the show, Big Youth, Bongo Herman, George Nooks and Freddie McGregor, maintained their favour with the crowd through spirited performances and some of Brown’s all-time classics.
In all his glitz and grills, Big Youth was an eccentric delight, holding the audience with his showmanship of Brown’s Things in Life and his own Hit the Road Jack and Satta Massanga. Anecdotes throughout the evening were only natural, and Big Youth shared his piece.
“Dennis Brown was a nice, kind brethren. Sometimes dem seh the good die young… mi feel good fi know mi and him used to spar,” he said.
Brown’s friend and touring mate, percussionist Bongo Herman, fostered a community vibe at the Waterfront, as he had the crowd singing and clapping to his performance of Bob Marley’s Rastaman Chant and Alton Ellis’ Rocksteady. His duffle bag of “seasonings” was not far away, and it wasn’t long before Herman was finessing the drums, cabasa, vibraslap and his famous enamel chimney.
The vocal influence of Brown is eminent in singers like George Nooks, who did not disappoint in his cover of Should I, which attracted phone lights from patrons wanting to capture the moment. His performance of gospel tracks God Is Standing By and Ride Out Your Storm also earned a round of applause.
Medley of songs
Big Ship’s Freddie McGregor aced Brown’s Love Has Found Its Way and delivered smooth vocals on I See It In You and Push Comes To Shove. McGregor, who has supported the concert from its embryonic stages at Big Yard, Orange Street, in 2009, is pleased with the event’s growth.
“Leggo and I were both together the night we got the call that Dennis passed in 1999, and these were the visions we had for him to be remembered in some meaningful ways,” he told BUZZ. “We pushed for this concert and eventually the minister came in and helped with funding. And for the last couple of years, this Dennis Brown show has been tremendous.”
Another fine vocalist, Richie Stephens, added to the night’s tributes with a medley of Brown’s songs, including Never Never Never, Ride On and Stay At Home.
Though the show is in Brown’s honour, February also commemorates Bob Marley’s birthday. His son, Julian, toasted to both reggae pioneers, performing Brown’s I Can’t Stand It and Bob Marley and The Wailers’ We And Dem.
See images from the concert in the gallery below.
Rocksteady legend Alton Ellis was also represented through his son and singer, Christopher, who chorused some of his father’s classics like You’ve Made Me So Happy and his own single, Still Go A Dance that was produced by Damian Marley.
The line-up was balanced with a bevy of female singers, from the graceful Mary Isaacs, whose version of Phyllis Dillon’s Perfidia and Don’t Stay Away never gets old, to Althea Hewitt’s pacifying notes on her track, Stronger. Maxine and Yeza were also on the bill, as well as Nature Ellis, The Reid family, The Heptones, Samory-I, Chester Miller and Capleton, who closed the night with his usual fire.