Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Had they been committed by the top-two teams in another arena, the number of false starts to this year's Dennis Brown tribute concert would have been enough to change the results of Girls' Champs 2013.
However, in music there are second chances to get the tunes rolling and the third time was the charm for honours to the Crown Prince, Richie Stephens (Live Your Life) bringing the night to a close for a rapidly dwindling audience, sated by Beres Hammond and Cocoa Tea, with a brief infusion of Jah Cure.
What would have been Dennis Brown's 58th birthday was celebrated with a huge street concert on Ocean Boulevard, downtown Kingston, a shift from the previous venue, just outside Big Yard on Orange Street. There were pros and a sole con to the move; among the former were the increased parking and audience space, and improved aesthetics. Instead of being framed by somewhat ramshackle buildings as before, the concert took place between somewhat modern office buildings on one side and the Kingston Harbour on the other.
The sea provided a brief vantage point for persons on-board the party boat Caribbean Queen to enjoy Bongo Herman's gung-ho performance at about 8 p.m.
Plus, with the audience area increased from the two lanes of Orange Street to four lanes and a median on Ocean Boulevard, more persons were able to get closer to the action - although this made it difficult to judge if there was an increase or decrease from the bumper turnout of previous Dennis Brown celebrations. The sponsorship support also seemed on the up, if the bannering was anything to go by, and three large screens before the audience pointed to a step up in production.
Ironically, the sole negative was related to those improved aesthetics and spaces. For a striking aspect of previous Dennis Brown tributes was the number of persons in nightclothes who turned out for the concert, their response to music made by them and for them coming in chorus deep from the belly. So while the large audience at Kingston's waterfront on Sunday night reacted happily to the slightest sound of familiar music, the tribute lacked the crackle of the urban poor's belly roar that had marked previous stagings.
tributes from different generations
The honours to Brown came from different generations - Kabaka Pyramid, Protoje and Chronixx (for whom the audience reserved the response to a young musical prince) were from the younger, Ken Boothe led a mass Happy Birthday to Brown and in-between I Feel Good and Step Aside Beres Hammond paid homage to Brown's personal good qualities as a friend.
There were instrumentalists as well, Bongo Herman working through his bag of percussion instruments to the inevitable enamel chamber pot and Dean Fraser interpreting Wolves and Leopards.
Toots and the Maytals put emphasis on Brown's favourite part of 54-46 ("He would say 'Niyah', this is the part I like.") and after I Pray Thee, Big Youth struck out with his locks, to the audience's delight. The Heptones included Book of Rules in their set.
A rare note of disharmony on the night came from the normally super cool and affable Errol Dunkley, who insisted on doing a capella tributes to Gregory Isaacs, Sugar Minott, and Brown, exclaiming "time wha? A my showtime now!" when he was reminded about the time constraints.
As it was, the marathon concert ended about half hour past the slated midnight cut-off, Junior Sinclair, Sharon Tucker and Mary Isaacs also among those honouring Brown earlier.