Classics from an 11-y-o to veterans
On Saturday night, the National Arena was a makeshift concert hall filled with the sound of familiar rocksteady melodies along with classic rhythm and blues, as is customary with The Original Startime. Spearheaded by Michael Barnett, the concert displayed pioneering talents like Ken Boothe and Derrick Morgan, along with Gem Myers. However, this staging pulled to the fore a couple impressive young performers, as well as both veteran and up-and-coming international acts.
When invited to the stage, 11-year-old Xylophone had the convincing confidence and undeniable skills of a veteran. She was the only act who roused the crowd to such levels, the band was forced to 'wheel' and restart each of her three songs.
The youngster delivered a skilful, controlled performance of Stick By Me by John Holt, followed by a sensational cover of Lift It Up Again by Pinchers. She closed her set with an ambitious cover of Minnie Riperton's Loving You. The falsetto runs proved a bit challenging for the young performer, but she demonstrated impressive control, like that of a great singer on a cold day.
Also invited to perform was son of Startime's organiser Michael Barnett Jr, better known as Third World Don. Recently signed to Los Angeles-based Capitol Records, Barnett Jr did his first performance in Jamaica.
Derrick Morgan had the audience jigging along with his scats in Reggae Train and Forward March.
Gem Myers was introduced to the stage by the concert's host, Tommy Cowan, as Jamaica's best cabaret performer. Wrapped in a fitted golden gown, Myers proved Cowan right with a breath-defying rendition of Jennifer Holliday's And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.
The seamless flow of entertainment was interrupted during an extended band change, with the evening's backing band, Lloyd Parkes and We the People, making way for The Manhattans. Startime's organisers used the opportunity to make a number of presentations to the local music industry's high achievers and its long-standing supporters.
Howard Armstrong, general manager of KOOL 97 FM, was presented with an award to highlight the radio station's dedication to oldies music and The Original Startime's "win-win association with a truly international brand". Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented by Kenrick Davis to Leslie Bryan, for 55 years in the music business, and DJ Dennis Alcapone, deejay pioneer.
Barnett himself was brought to the stage after prolonged coaxing from Cowan.
The Manhattans closed the show with an expert display of vocals and precision choreography, singing classic hits like It Feels So Good, Shining Star, There's No Good in Goodbye and Kiss and Say Goodbye.