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An hour-long acoustic set by American soul singer John Legend got the thumbs up from the majority of fans who turned up to see the superstar as he headlined the Tobago Jazz Experience at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park on Friday night.
Opting to perform with just his piano, the 35-year-old went for a stripped-down format that lent a more intimate feel to the performance. He delivered some of his biggest hits like Used To Love You, Ordinary People, Tonight (Best You Ever Had), So High, Green Light, and of course, his recent chart-topper All Of Me.
Some felt the performance was too low key, and missed the excitement of a band, but most seemed not to mind, as they sang along—word for word—with great enthusiasm. Sadly, Legend didn’t return for an encore even though the MC and some of the patrons near the stage called for him to return.
Legend didn’t perform the song Quickly, a collaboration with Brandy who preceded him onstage. Brandy, who is known to a lot of locals as the star of the sitcom Moesha, found it difficult to keep the attention of the nearly 10,000-strong audience.
She went back to the 90s and drew on hits like I Wanna Be Down, Sitting Up In My Room and Baby, which went down well with some of the younger patrons who knew her songs. At one point, she even commented, “you guys look bored” and urged her band to pick up the tempo. The crowd responded best when she did a segment of Whitney Houston covers.
Keeping the audience engaged was not a problem for 2013 Chutney Soca Monarch Raymond Ramnarine and his band Dil-E-Nadan. They got the crowd on their feet with a set that included pop songs from the 80s and 90s, and recent soca hits. The last minute pullout of Bunji Garlin, his wife Fay-Ann and the Asylum Vikings was not announced to the audience, so there were a lot of disappointed faces when Neil “Iwer” George appeared onstage to close the show.
The disappointment of not seeing Bunji Garlin was, however, far outweighed by the widespread disgust and dismay at the logistical failures of Friday night’s show.
In recent weeks, the organisers, the Tobago House of Assembly, proudly announced that with 10,000 tickets sold, this was the biggest night ever in the history of the Tobago Jazz Experience. So how could they not realise the venue needed to be properly managed to comfortably accommodate the large crowd? It was not helped by dividing the space into a large VIP section and a too-small general admission area.
Patrons who paid $900 for VIP tickets were entitled to three drinks and a plate of food, but the lines for food and drink were so long that many decided to forego the option.
Several Tobago Jazz regulars who paid $500 for general admission, told the T&T Guardian that at past events where there was no separation, they were able to find suitable spots to spread their mats or blankets to relax and enjoy the show. This year, the tight fit in the general area meant that seated patrons were blocked by groups of people who were standing. Some older patrons complained about the heat, and there were at least two incidents where people fainted.
At the food court in general admission there were complaints about what was described as “ridiculous prices.” One concessionaire was selling a kebab and rice for $75, while chicken wings and chips were going for $60 at another.
The traffic surrounding the venue was also horrible. People were stuck for up to an hour along Milford Road, one of the main arteries leading to Pigeon Point. Although the organisers instituted a park and ride shuttle system, the buses also got stuck in the traffic and this forced many patrons to walk into the venue. There were still people streaming into the gates after 10 pm.
The congestion was not helped by the VIP parking at the venue, which meant that at the end of the show, the traffic coming out of Pigeon Point prevented the shuttles from picking people up to return them to designated car parks. This forced thousands to walk more than a mile, in some cases, to their cars.
The events finish tonight with appearances by Earth, Wind and Fire and Keyshia Cole. Although a large crowd is anticipated, it’s not expected to be as huge as on Friday. For many this would be more in keeping with the relaxed, feel-good vibe that is associated with the Tobago Jazz Experience.