Machel Montano and Calypso Rose. (Picture by Curtis Chase, courtesy of Trinidad Express)
PORT OF SPAIN – Machel Monday had great moments. To say, however, Machel Montano’s concert performance at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain on Monday night was his Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) would be a large oversell.
The soca GOAT promised a diverse musical experience reflecting the nuances of cultural expressions that are the Caribbean. And in many ways he did just that. The problem is, the show was far too long and at times lacked clarity to allow patrons the opportunity to fully appreciate the wealth of talent on offer.
In some cases, guest artistes seemed reluctant to leave the spotlight and lingered on stage needlessly.
Montano clearly aimed to give all his guests a fair opportunity to shine, but the people didn’t come to see Destra Garcia or Calypso Rose in concert and their extended performances affected the flow and energy of Montano’s set. Intermittent rain didn’t help either.
Montano may have buried his grouse with the self-proclaimed soca water lord Iwer George with an open invitation for him to attend and/or perform at Machel Monday. Iwer, however, refused, citing a lack of rehearsal time with Montano’s band. But his presence was surely felt with the amount of water that fell from the skies and doused the scampering feteing crowd.
Montano started well enough when he took to the stage at 10:30 p.m., with a huge pyrotechnic-fuelled opening to his three-hour-plus set. Dressed in a gold and black tracksuit with matching headband, soca’s biggest star ran on stage beneath a larger-than-life matching Carnival portrayal to the sound of his Road March contender Release.
The band was emphatic and the fireworks above the stadium majestic. The problem was the energy of the stage presentation didn’t match that song, at least the public reception of it. And that reality became even more evident when he cued his band, moments later, into the opening notes of his hit collaboration with Skinny Fabulous (Gamal Doyle) and Bunji Garlin (Ian Alvarez) Famalay.
“It will be Bunji’s first and we welcome Skinny, one Caribbean. I am looking for Road March number what?” Montano asked, showing the crowd his ten fingers.
His perfect opening sequence was completed when he followed with a medley of his road dominators that included Like A Boss, Advantage and Ministry of Road.
Cuban fusion star Cimafunk (Erik Alejandro Rodriguez) brought a Latin swing to the stage when he appeared with dance troupe et al. Though they may not have understood a word of Spanish, the crowd showed appreciation to the rising talent when he performed his hits Me Voy and Parar el Tiempo.
Not to be outdone, Montano showed his pedigree with a performance of his Spanish-language hit La Vida. About an hour later when he invited Kassav lead singer Jacob Desvarieux, he created another one of those special memorable moments.
Desvarieux’s voice is pure gold. The veteran performer didn’t require any backing tracks when the duo sang their 2019 hit Dance. The performance compelled everyone to get on their feet and dance in the pouring rain.
The decision to have acts sing atop backing vocal tracks was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the showcase. Some artistes couldn’t match their studio recordings and ended up going off key as was the case of Nessa Preppy (Vanessa John).
Another poor decision was the inclusion of Candice, the dancer made famous for rolling down the Diego Martin main road like a car tyre in a viral video. Candice did the most toppling, rolling, contorting and jumping into split positions. All this happened in full view of several minors in attendance at the show.
American R&B star Ashanti Douglas, meanwhile, restored a level of class to the show with immaculate vocal runs during a fantastic performance of her collaboration with Montano The Road. Ashanti shocked the audience when she leapt off her feet and asked them to jump and wave. They obliged wholeheartedly. And when she arched her back and rotated her hips and instructed them to wine the entire venue lit up just as brightly as during the concert’s opening sequence. (Trinidad Express)