Back in the mid-80s to early 90s, concerts featuring R&B, rap and pop stars, usually at the height of their game, were a regular feature in this country.Boyz II Men, C&C Music Factory, MC Hammer, Queen Latifah, Colour Me Badd and Run DMC, were among those who filled the National Stadium as young Trinis flocked to hear and see their favourite stars in a pre-Internet, pre-YouTube, pre-urban radio station era.Perhaps it was with this memory, the organisers of the Redlight Concert Series chose the Hasely Crawford Stadium as their venue of choice for their first concert featuring R&B sensations Ne-Yo and R Kelly.It was an ambitious effort to say the least taking many factors into consideration.
The concert fell on Divali weekend, it was held the day after many were supposed to be in Barbados for the now-postponed Rihanna concert, and it was held a month before Christmas, making it difficult for some to part with their gift money or costume savings for that matter.Add in the facts that these stars have a track record of not showing up and that R&B music is now confined to Sunday night love shows and adult contemporary stations and what you got were a plethora of empty seats on Saturday night at the stadium, a vast space, which easily holds up to 70,000 on Fantastic Friday.Empty seats and rain aside, the promoters, Pollen Nation, P2 Productions and Parsons Creative, kept their promise to deliver a far superior experience to what we have become accustomed.The Black Diamond and Redlight Lounge areas, the two VIP spots with ticket prices well over $1,000, were well equipped with bars and food stations.The butler service in the Redlight Lounge seemed to be working all night and the bathrooms were kept clean and stocked by attendants. Even when rain fell, attendants offered paper towels to patrons to wipe up their seats.On the performance end, the headliners met expectations.
Ne-Yo, who flew in on Thursday and spent some time getting to know the country, seemed relaxed and at ease on stage as he delivered in CD quality vocals, hits such as Miss Independent, Addicted, Closer and So Sick, among many others.He further won over the locals when he brought on surprise guest artistes Jamaican dancehall star Popcaan and Kees Dieffenthaller. Popcaan was not impressive as a live singer but Kees delighted his fans with some of his hits including Wotless, during which he tried to show Ne-Yo how to wine in what was clearly the highlight of the night.The hour-long wait for R Kelly killed the vibe for many, but when the Pied Piper of R&B finally deigned to regale us with his presence, after ensuring backstage was cleared of any onlookers, he did not disappoint.He was not as engaging as Ne-Yo but his vocals were on point especially when he did a rendition of one of his biggest songs I Believe I Could Fly.The supporting acts, Machel Montano HD and Bunji Garlin with Fay Ann and Asylum, seemed liked odd ingredients to the mix but we were promised performances in keeping with the mood of the night.
I missed Asylum's performance due to an earlier assignment but from all reports they did mix up their repertoire, with Fay Ann particularly showing off her vocals with Bruno Mars' songs.Stating that he was warned to take it down, Montano brought Bajan saxophonist Arturo Tappin on to add a nice reggae vibe to songs such as Make Love To You, Bend Over and One More Wine.
His voice seemed strained but sounded smooth in a lower register when he did a cover of Tarrus Riley's One Drop and his own I See Lots.Less is sometimes more and really, Montano alone could have carried his set without bringing on Patrice Roberts, Farmer Nappy and his Sealots Project cast: Positive, Collis Duranty and Prophet Benjamin. None of them added to his time on stage and mic problems plagued them throughout.The highlight of Montano's performance was the premiere of his 2014 hit Happiest Man Alive, since it's release last week, the groovy soca song has been getting a fair bit of airplay.Kudos must be given to DJ Kaotic, the Soca Specialist, who kept the vibes going between the long band changeovers with a range of music from R&B to dancehall.The event was billed as a sit-down affair but between his music and the rain, sitting was not in the cards that night.