Beres intense, riveting at Studio 38
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
There are only a few performers whose appearance on the steps leading into a venue is met with applause and, on Sunday night, Beres Hammond got that welcome from those who spotted him as he entered Studio 38, Trafalgar Road, New Kingston. There may have been some relief to go with the pre-performance acclaim, though, as shortly before there had been impatient handclaps for showtime when the promised 15-minute intermission turned the corner to three-quarters of an hour.
Before the break, Lloyd Parkes and We The People Band had kept the bumper crowd moving, Clancy Eccles Jr delivering in the mode of Lionel Richie (Three Times a Lady) and Tarrus Riley (She's Royal), while Parkes closed the segment Officially.
But it was Hammond those who held doggedly to their front and centre seats or popped out umbrellas on the perimeter of the seating area to fend off the few raindrops (which soon ceased) had come to see at unusually close range. Hammond carried the congeniality he displayed offstage, greeting many in the performance area, but he added an infectious intensity in delivering from his tremendous catalogue to make for a riveting 95 minutes.
Not that Hammond's opening comment was an indication of what was to come. "How the show go, your guess or mine. All I know I going sing two tune," he said, white shirt buttoned right up and smiling under the peak of his trademark cap.
That shirt was loosened then totally unbuttoned in short order, the sheen of effort dampening Hammond's white merino, and while the cap stayed firmly in place, the left side got several hard slaps in time to the music which was hitting Hammond painlessly and his adoring audience gloriously.
He started out with a mini review of his musical progression, the R&B I'm So In Love, the lovers' rock of Can't Stop a Man, the uptempo reggae Step Aside Now and the rub a dub One Dance. The party was definitely on and Hammond paused to further establish the bond between himself and the audience. "Can I call you family?" he asked and got the expected resounding yes. Then he established his dancehall credentials with Who Say (Big Man Don't Cry), growling part of Buju Banton's segment and flinging a foot in the air as the audience erupted.
Having outlined his longevity, versatility and quality, Hammond said: "this thing start from the early '70s going through and I give thanks to all of you. We hardly get a chance to say thank you." And he made his words flesh, shaking hands with members of the audience.
It was not his last venture into the ranks of the spectators and, with persons close on both sides of the performance area, at points Hammond seemed part of the crowd rather than a separate performer. He was down the aisle and leaping in time with the audience on Can You Play Some More. On No Disturb Sign, he hugged a lady up front and she took a crack at the refrain. And throughout the concert, Hammond kept up a running conversation with a set of ladies standing to his right onstage.
The audience participated fully in the concert, Double Trouble, Putting Up Resistance and Rockaway among the bigger 'chorale' songs. And the bond between the Harmony House Band and singer was evident, the music orchestrated for maximum effect - contributing the full punch of rockers where required, often stepping back to totally foreground Hammond's soul-filled, gritty vocals.
Full party effect
The style of delivery varied, the songs run together for full party effect in the earlier stages, then done in full with a definite end in the later ones. Hammond was not averse to reaching back to soul antecedents, as after Tempted to Touch he moved into Golden Touch and Sentimental Reasons.
However, the aural and visual impact of the horn section was missing. Also, in the early stages, there was a sound glitch which was, thankfully, not repeated.
Approaching the end of the concert Hammond came up to his most recent album with I Feel Good, there was a cameo from Jimmy Riley, who did Conversation and Hammond closed by "giving thanks" in tandem with Lenya Wilks to round off a superb night.
Toots Hibbert continues the fortnightly Studio 38 concert series on Sunday, March 28.