Hudson's class stuns MoBay - Beenie Man closes Sumfest 2015
Saturday's International Night Two, dubbed 'Star Time', was the platform for confirming one of Reggae Sumfest's most consistent closers, as well as presenting outstanding vocal displays at Catherine Hall, Montego Bay, St James.
She may have got her start on the American Idol talent show and the Dreamgirls film, but Jennifer Hudson has long solidified herself as a distinct and enthralling performer. She was dressed in black, while her back-up singers wore all-white and, similarly, Hudson's contrast to the rest of the night's performers was just as stark. Performing Whatever Makes You Happy and Pocketbook, Hudson expressed her love of music, then proceeded to hit notes only someone who is comfortable with their voice would dare to explore.
The American rhythm and blues singer invited Digicel contest winner, Allison Roberts, on stage to perform Spotlight, which became a duet, and eventually a chorus, as the patrons knew every syllable.
Hudson's renowned Where You At seemed to beckon to all the males in the audience. She commended Jamaica on being unlike anywhere else she had visited, which was apropos, as her voice was unlike anything Sumfest had ever experienced.
The modern Whitney Houston performed It's Your World, reminding the audience that when it comes to vocal strength, it's her world and all other humans mere inhabitants. One Night Only transitioned to And I Am Telling You, the rare remake in her set and which was comparable to the original, only because of Hudson's prowess.
Not to be outdone, new-school reggae ambassador, Christopher Martin, opened with Take My Wings then If You Can't Love Me Now to rousing approval. He had the stage presence needed for an audience of the second International Night's acumen and he knew just how to get them going with Cheater's Prayer being his unofficial anthem. Fans laughed in unison and sang along as he prayed for strength.
Martin's tributes to Dennis Brown, Garnett Silk and other legends of reggae were tastefully done. Performing Kenny Rogers' Lady at a slow, melodic pace, he also added his own spin to classics from Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye, each choice being a musical aphrodisiac.
With an interesting end to his set, Martin paid tribute to both his mother and his father with a song for each parent, including Just Like You.
Beenie Man, for the second year in a row, closed the festival. As in previous years, the Doctor's fans broke dawn with him, waiting for the man tasked with closing the week of events. Dressed impeccably as always, this time in a white tuxedo with accompanying bow tie and black dress pants, Beenie went through his litany of hit songs, noting he had been a superstar for 23 years. With Back It Up, he beckoned the sexy ladies, followed by Dude, Let Him Go and Toyfriend. Going through his extensive catalogue, Beenie Man's transitions were seamless.
On the night, LUST showed the vocal dexterity needed to be impactful. Lukie D, Thriller U, Singing Melody and Tony Curtis came out to Chicago's You're The Inspiration, all four sharply dressed and with voices to match. Each went through his individual hits, from a remake of Love Should Have Brought You Home to Say What Lady and a cover of One in a Million. The atmosphere they created was cheerful, and the longer their set went on, the more smiles emanated from the audience. Their gospel medley took the early Sunday morning crowd to church.
LUST closed with their remake of Just As I Am, showing how four strong voices can coexist.
THE NIGHT'S SURPRISE
The Pepsi Refresh Hour was the surprise of the night as the performer held their own. Engaging an obedient audience, Denyque and her dancers and Raine Seville urged the women with good bodies to be proud of them. Kalando, Chi Ching Ching, and Ikaya closed the Pepsi Hour to the most rousing applause of the set.
Yazz the Greatest, best known for his role on the Fox television hit series, Empire, made his Reggae Sumfest debut to a good welcome. Exploring his newfound success, the rapper's energy was on display as he performed No Apologies, You're So Beautiful, All For The Power and Drip Drop, songs originally done on the television show.
Other commanding performances were delivered by the Warrior Love Band, who added some serious old-school reggae to one of the best curtain closers for the 'Greatest Reggae Show on Earth'.
If Zhevea, whose sex appeal had the men swooning, had opened her larynx a little wider so the words she was singing could be heard, she may have succeeded in connecting with the audience.
Persons of Interest and Dwane Antonio completed Saturday's star-studded list.