Fri | Dec 2, 2016

Stirring Stephens, terrific Tappin, mediocre Mariah

Published:Monday | February 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Claudia Gardner, Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:A downpour on Friday's second night of the 2015 Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival at the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium had many patrons scampering for shelter or huddling under umbrellas, as closing act Morgan Heritage took the musical reins from American songstress Mariah Carey.

Carey, the festival's main act, appeared to struggle at times during a performance which was not as thrilling as her fans expected. This was even though Carey elicited applause in some sections of the venue as soon as she sang the first few lines of several hits.

Her back-up vocalist, Trey Lorenz, helped to lift the 44-year-old Carey's showing when he stepped forward, upon her invitation, to do several duets. These included their remake of the Jackson Five's I'll Be There and a rendition of Rock With You.

Carey's set

Carey appeared on stage - approximately 11:35 p.m. when the show resumed after a one hour break. She made four wardrobe changes and at intervals posed for photographs being snapped by fans nearest the stage. She first appeared in a black and green gown and, after singing Fantasy, Touch My Body and Emotions, exited the stage.

She reappeared at 11:55 sporting a floor-length purple gown to do I Know What You Want, recorded with Busta Rhymes in 2002. It was followed by Vision Of Love, Make it Happen and Honey. At 12:15 a.m. she again exited the stage, returning in a black sequined number. And she finally changed to a short white cocktail dress, performing Always Be My Baby and closing with We Belong Together.

The first major act for the night, the Silver Birds Steel Orchestra, put on a decent showing. The band's members obviously enjoyed themselves as they did songs ranging from John Legend's All Of Me to Chronixx's Smile Jamaica and Dawn Penn's You Don't Love Me (No, No, No).

The orchestra turned their performance up a notch by introducing a dreadlocked Michael Jackson impersonator, who moonwalked and somersaulted to Billie Jean and other songs from Jackson's extensive repertoire.

Arturo Tappin's set

Saxophonist Arturo Tappin was summoned on stage at 8:30 p.m. In an engaging performance, Tappin treated the audience to his interpretation of Kevin Lyttle's Tempted To Touch as well as Michael Jackson's Bad and Smooth Criminal, before doing Inner Life's 1979 I'm Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair). He paid tribute to John Holt with Never, Never, Never and followed up with the Stylistics' 1972 hit Betcha By Golly Wow.

Richie Stephens, with his golden voice, brought the stadium alive doing a series of cover versions ranging from Billy Ocean's Colour of Love to songs recorded on the rhythm to Holt's A Love I Can Feel, including a few lines from Tony Rebel's Fresh Vegetable, Tony Tuff's First Time I Met You and the 1990 Beres Hammond classic Tempted To Touch. Then came Stephens' cover of Trying To Get To You, also recorded on the rhythm .

His reggae rendition of The Rolling Stones Salt of the Earth had the audience singing along line for line. So too did Stephen's interpretation of Dennis Brown's Love's Got a Hold On Me and Fight Back, his collaboration with the late Garnet Silk.

commanding performance

Stephens was commanding as he effortlessly crooned By Your Side and then Luther Vandross' I'd Rather and his own Everytime You're There, recorded in 1994, while he was signed to Motown. Tributes to Gregory Isaacs (Love Is Overdue) and John Holt (If I Were a Carpenter) were followed by Stephens' dancehall hit Weakness For Sweetness.

He changed his blue jacket for a flaming red one at the start of the ska-tech segment and, along with dancers dressed in jackets which probably covered the rainbow's spectrum, Stephens danced up a storm as he did a gospel medley, as well as other songs. After introducing each dancer, Stephens paid tribute to Jamaica's youth.

"We love giving young people an opportunity to better themselves - wrong or right?" Stephens asked. "We naw gwaan too good as leader inna our country and we need to face that ... . We just need to pay attention to our young people," he said, before ending with Live Your Life.

Closing act Morgan Heritage held their own. The rain came as soon as they appeared on stage, but despite some patrons scurrying away the band soldiered on with Don't Haffi Dread, A Man Is Still a Man, What We Need Is Love and Psalm 23, among other songs.