Inside the Event | 55 years for Manhattans, Jamaica
As far as marking anniversaries goes, tomorrow's Startime concert at the National Arena could hardly have been better timed. For while the US group famed for its heart-tugging songs such as Kiss and Say Goodbye, We Never Danced to a Love Song and There's No Me without You, is marking 55 years in music, early next month, Jamaica will celebrate 55 years of independence from Britain.
While he points out the coincidence of both anniversaries, there are other figures which may be more pressing for Startime organiser Michael Barnett. Numerically, the largest of these is the capacity of the National Arena, where The Manhattans, Ken Bothe, Derrick Morgan, Gem Myers and Lloyd Parkes & We The People Band will perform at what Barnett is considering the biggest Startime ever.
The Arena can hold 8,000 persons a far cry from the 100-person capacity of the Oceana Hotel, Kingston venue where Startime started at the Old Spanish Town Bar just over 150 performances ago.
"This is the first time since Startime's first year that it will be held in an indoor venue," Barnett said. "This is a 'Super Startime'. We are calling it the biggest Startime of all."
Between the gates opening at 6 p.m. and the 8:30 p.m. showtime, complimentary chocolates (for the ladies) and ginger wine are part of the experience.
"We are expecting people to come out early," Barnett said.
Noting that "the Arena has been upgraded and is in very good condition", Barnett said there will be a food court upstairs. He is also putting in a strong private security presence, complementing the police, and streamlining traffic as part of the arrangements.The Fire Brigade and Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) are also part of the safety precautions.
The overseas headliners are booked as the Manhattans, featuring Gerald Alston. Barnett said when he made the arrangements last year, he was in touch with Alston who has been the groups singer for 47 years. Barnett was not sure of the group's status, after the death of the deep voiced Blue Lovett, whose spoken introduction to Kiss and Say Goodbye was always a high point of the group'performances. When the itinerary was returned, it included the other two singers, themselves long-standing Manhattans voices.
"He called me and said call in The Manhattans, featuring Gerald Alston," Barnett said.