Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
These are new times in the old market of the vintage-music concert, as close to a promotional sure shot as conceivable in the topsy-turvy world of live-concert staging in Jamaica.
Not only has the Stars R Us series, which had largely replaced the long-running Heineken Startime series, not been on for some time, but the standard Kingston address for the large oldies concerts, Mas Camp, has joined the great venues in the sky.
However, a number of small-scale concerts around Kingston and St Andrew have long signalled a change in Corporate Area concert offerings from the marathon to the miniature.
So the odds of a successful staging of a truncated version of a typical oldies concert were strongly in favour of the Studio 38, Trafalgar Road, outfit on Sunday night, in terms of audience demand, a quartet of strong performers and the sit-down expectations associated with the smaller venue.
And, save for the chatter of Jimmy Riley which at first engaged and then displeased the large audience, though his music led to some recovery, the vintage concert, abridged version, was a hit.
George Nooks, Riley, Ken Boothe and John Holt, in that order, with Lloyd Parkes and We The People Band on the stand and a few lines cameo by Beres Hammond close to the end of Holt's crowd-moving closing set went over well - and it did not hurt that the show ended at about 11:30 p.m., despite Holt performing for just over an hour, including a non-induced encore.
There were a few attempts to put a break in the proceedings, but save for the 20-minute stretch before Boothe and Holt, the audience would have none of it.
Nooks did a marathon of his own in the opening slot, the combination of Forty Leg and Zion Gates coming close to the end, his easy transition between songs keeping the party going. There was a trio of Dennis Brown cuts, ending with Money in My Pocket, before Nooks paused for an election-related speaking cause.
"I going to close with one of my signature song," Nooks said.
He said that with the general election over, "one thing I love how it run. The violence gone down". There was heartfelt applause, Nooks continuing, "one time election come all two, three weeks you can't go out. This was Song of the Year, 1976".
Thirty-six years later it is still a hit and Nooks went into deejay mode to request "son don't take your guns to town the war is over", as he left the stage.
Pulse boss Kingsley Cooper introduced Jimmy Riley as the bad boy of reggae, and Riley was determined to state his place in Jamaican popular music, as a member of the Sensations, Techniques and Uniques, extending the lineage to Tarrus.
"After so many hits I come with a hit son. The woman them love him like food!" Riley said.
When he asked "can I sing some songs for you?" there was a resounding yes, which transformed into cheers as Riley opened with Rougher Yet. But by the time Riley started talking about Tinga Stewart, before doing Stewart's Inside My Heart on the same rhythm, there were some protesting handclaps.
It was a sign of discontent to come, the obvious lack of co-ordination between singer and band not helping, even though there were moments when the audience showed enthusiasm for Riley's strong set of songs.
One such shot of enthusiasm came in the smooth transition into one of Riley's signature songs, Love and Devotion, the hands going up and side to side. When he closed one song with a repeated "I am amazed by you" the audience also showed its appreciation - but when he gave the history of the creation of Conversation before he closed with the song, the audience was not impressed.
Still, there was appreciative applause at the end.
Sheer quality music
After the break, it was about 100 minutes of sheer quality music and showmanship to the end, Ken Boothe having about half-hour of the music time and all of the twinkle-toed movement in his white shoes. He opened a capella with a new song, then announced "we are going to take you on a journey".
The audience came along happily for the ride, through Say You and Everything Own, When I Fall in Love and The Train is Coming, the last starting the renown Boothe medley which includes The Girl I Left Behind and Moving Away.
And there was general agreement when Boothe said "these songs will never die".
He closed with Puppet on a String, but was encouraged to return and did Speak Softly Love to very good effect.
John Holt was in a no-nonsense mood, doing hit after hit to an audience that was largely standing and dancing from his opening Tonight, through to closing Brandy, taking a few requests in between and never pausing for a break. There was laughter when Holt tossed a gentle jab at Riley during a rare pause in the music. "Lloydie wants me to talk. I think Jimmy Riley did all the talking. Jimmy Riley took all the pages out of my book," Holt said. Stick By Me, Sweetie Come Brush Me and On the Beach were among the many songs Holt did in full; Mr Bojangles was delivered without music and, as the audience formed an impromptu choir, Holt said it was a sing-out night.
Ali Baba and Up Park Camp hit hard and there were lines from Police in Helicopter and Queen of the Ghetto.
To top it off there was a surprise; Beres Hammond sent a request to Holt, who requested Hammond's presence, the two alternating a few lines to seal the musical feast.