Deciding a closing act
Krista Henry and Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writers
It is coming up to the end of the typical long stage show in Jamaica. The patrons have been on their feet all night through a slew of performers, cheering, jeering or dishing out the silent treatment as they are so moved. It is now into the famed 'morning ride' and the night cranks up with the really big names.
However, at the end of it all, who will be required to deliver that emphatic closing note to put the lid on the show? And is it an honour to close, an acknowledgement of the performer's power to hold the audience after a long night, or is it a burden, asking a near spent audience for one last burst of energy?
Closing a concert is make or break for the event, the promoter and the performer, as last impressions are lasting. Worrell King, who stages Western Consciousness annually, as well as Tribute to Peter Tosh, is well aware of that and puts tremendous planning into the build-up to the close.
"The most important thing for the event is the running order. My show is generally done weeks before the event. I start the show on a level and take it up as it goes on," King told The Sunday Gleaner. He said, "I never ever want to end my show on a negative note. People must leave wanting more."
In going for that climax, he caps off the night with "whoever is hot, whoever is able to close a hot event." He thinks being entrusted with closing duties is an honour, "especially for an artiste who knows he or she has the catalogue and can deliver. I think if you are a good batsman you can bat anywhere."
He said there are performers who do not wish to close and "in reality there are some acts that are senior acts."
"Personally, I am in somewhat agreement with some who refuse to close shows. These events nowadays are out of their realm. When they were coming and when I started promoting I did not know about shows going until eight, nine o'clock (in the morning)," King said, adding that they used to finish concerts at two and three a.m. and even earlier. "I think it is unfair to put on a big man who has paid his dues to close at even 5 a.m.," he said.
"Even if they want to go on at that time I would say, 'that is disrespecting you, but if you want to, fine'," King said.
Often, the running order is kept private and when the artiste go to a show he or she knows their place on the concert. He said, "some artistes are there and they hide when they think it is too early to work. When it reaches a certain stage there is a 'bomb rush'. The crowd is big and hot, they want to perform now."
He said that while "if you put on a good show there is no peak time", there is a point where extra impact is required to impress the audience and give them the impetus to get up and move.
"After 3 a.m., the artiste has to be shining, as well as the production. Don't underestimate the production," King said.
icing on a cake
Carlette DeLeon of Headline Entertainment, who has had a hand in many major shows and festivals, said "a good closing act is like icing on a cake. That act brings the production together and holds the attention of the patrons to keep them in the venue. They have to end a concert or a festival on the right note."
Clive 'Kubba' Pringle stages concerts in Negril, where there is a 2 a.m. shut-down time. He said it would be logical that the person who is paid the most money would be the one to close a concert, but many times it does not work out that way. When choosing a closer, he looks at the person "who is confident enough and has the music to back it up. They have to have the respect, the reputation and the music to hold people when they want to go home."
Promoter Isaiah Laing has had years of experience in deciding how to organise his production for the enjoyment of the thousands of fans who gather for Sting on Boxing Day. While a clash is sometimes on the cards for the close, as with Mavado and Vybz Kartel in 2008, there are times when a regular performance has to work. Sting 2009 was one such staging where Vybz Kartel and his Portmore Empire brought the curtains down on the event.
For Laing, "timing" is of prime importance when controlling a filled venue, and a closing act has to be one that pleases, rather than upsets, the patrons. He told The Sunday Gleaner, "I think a good closing act is somebody that everybody will wait for. That's why when you clash people will wait around till the end to see it and you sell more in terms of the bar when people are there long. But not everybody can close a show. It takes a real performer like Beenie Man to close an event."
Dancehall diva Lady Saw is one of the few female artistes that can close a show with her larger-than-life personality. Whether she performs as Marion Hall, which was well received at the recent Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, or as her more raunchy self, Lady Saw is a show-stopper. She told The Sunday Gleaner she has closed many shows, both locally and abroad.
"When you're a top artiste people will wait on you. If a top artiste comes on too early people will walk out before the show is done," she said. "I take being a closing act as an honour and a burden on my shoulders, 'cause sometimes you just can't fight a man and his sleep."
Saw has no doubt, however, that she has what it takes to keep those eyelids open just a little bit longer.