Great Groovin' in Queens
The threat of rain did little to dampen the spirits of the thousands who turned out at the Roy Wilkins Park, Queens, New York, for Sunday's 2015 edition of the annual Groovin' In The Park concert.
As patrons made their way into the venue during the concert's earlier stages, they were transported back in time as Lt Stitchie delivered some of his classics, including Wear You Size and Natty Dread. Reeling off hits from his extensive catalogue, Stitchie struck the right notes with audience members, who clamoured for more.
He made way for Judy Mowatt, who transformed the venue into a church with songs such as Many Are Called and I Shall Sing. Still, alhough it was an exciting performance, Mowatt failed to capitalise on the energy built up by Stitchie.
The rapid band changes were made even more bearable as DJ Inferno dropped songs such as Buju Banton's Murderer and Jr Reid's One Blood, Barry G, once again, took the stage, this time to welcome The Messenger, Luciano.
Signalling his entrance with shouts of "Jah, Rastafari!", Luciano was in his element as he delivered hits such as Give Praise, Sweep Over My Soul, and Your World and Mine. "Dem try fi kill me, but Jah spare me life," a militant Luciano told the audience, before segueing into It's Me Again Jah, much to the delight of the audience. His fancy footwork and jumping also increased the level of his performance.
But the day certainly belonged to Cocoa Tea, who upped the ante on an already exciting line-up. Though only given 25 minutes to perform, there was never a dull moment in his set. "I hear the voice of the Rastaman say, Babylon yuh throne gone down ..." was all he needed to sing to get patrons on their feet and scampering to the front of the stage.
Songs such as Kette Drum and Good Life added to the excitement as patrons waved, gave 'gun salutes' with their hands, and shouted.
"Hold up you hands if you love Cocoa Tea style," he told the crowd. Immediately, a sea of hands reached to the sky. "How dem fi give me 25 minutes fi perform pon a big show like dis?" the singer enquired, as he neared the end of his set. After departing the stage, calls form the audience for more were satisfied, as Cocoa Tea willingly obliged.
"Dem haffi go call police and fire brigade fi tek me offa dis," he stated before covering Sanchez's Never Let You Down and Gregory Isaacs' Love Overdue, bringing an end to a superb set.
Nothing was spared the wrath of 'The Fireman', as Capleton blazed a fire throughout the venue. When he opened his set with That Day Will Come deafening screams almost drowned out his voice as audience members sang along. He followed up with Jah Jah City before moving into the "energy segment" of his performance.
With Capleton instructing patrons to "thump the sky", the park practically combusted when he reeled off hits such as Or Wha, Slew Dem, and Hunt You..
Practically levitating off the stage with high jumps, Capleton was interrupted by MC Barry G who informed the audience that they had a special surprise in store.
The appearance of the guest artiste got the crowd from red hot to fever pitch. The melodious voice of Stephen 'Ragga' Marley brought even more screams from the crowd. Together, he and Capleton performed Rockstone and It Was Written. They were also joined on stage by Luciano and Coco Tea and together they paid tribute to the legendary Bob Marley with his song Three Little Birds.
The Royal family of Reggae music, Morgan Heritage was next. Fans sang along to the group's soul-stirring songs such as Don't Haffi Dread and Down By The River. They also paid tribute to Toots Hibbert and Buju Banton, which was well received by the audience.
Billy Ocean invited fans to get out of his dreams and into his car, as he crooned his way into their hearts. Hits such as Love Zone, When The Going Gets Tough and Suddenly had patrons eating out of the palm of his hands. Incorporating some of the songs from his latest album, also did not decrease Ocean's performance level.
"I wanna take you to a place where we drink piÒa coladas. I wanna take you to a place where we have white beaches and palm trees," he stated as the crowd began chanting Caribbean Queen. Ocean, who was on stage for just over an hour delivered a great performance.
By now, fans had once again begun to crowd the front of the stage as it was time for Michael Bolton. There were wild cheers as he walked out onto the stage. Songs such as Soul Provider and To Love Somebody had lovers in the audience cradling each other.
Moving into Said I Loved You... But I Lied, Bolton urged the audience members to sing along with him and they did so willingly.
Informing the crowd that the show was running late, Bolton quickly adjusted his set. He was joined on stage by Amanda Brown and together they made magic with covers of Ain't No Mountain High Enough and How Am I Supposed To Live Without You.
Bolton ended his set with a tribute to the late Percy Sledge, doing When A Man Loves A Woman.