Monday, 3 March 2014

LIFE OF THE PARTY: Mixing the cool and the classic works wonders for UWI Pop Society

CROWD PLEASERS: The Mona-based group brings kinetic energy to their performances.

You can say this for the UWI Pop Society: dem kids know how to put on a show. And that's secondary to the fact that the group, like TV's popular Glee club, is a wildly creative and diversely talented bunch of on-the-come-up vocalists and instrumentalists whose impressive tastes range from alt-indie-folk to James Brown-esque soul-funk to gritty Jamaican dancehall of all eras.

Last week, we got a bit of everything while taking in their Philip Sherlock Centre-hosted 2014 concert season, "Rhythm of Life," a rollicking jam session which opened with a medley of take-them-to-church gospel classics before moving into a segment called We Shall Overcome, which featured renditions of "A Change Gonna Come" and "This Little Light of Mine," performed with incredible foot-stomping gusto. They slowed the tempo somewhat to huddle centrestage for a suite of simmering, heartfelt tunes (Frank Ocean's "Thinkin' Bout You" among them) during an acoustic session fittingly called Lost Love and Heartache.

But before you could say "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", the energy level re-crescendoed to sky-scraping heights for a Swingin' 20s fusion of hot-pants jazz and doo-wop grooves, boasting an eye-popping set of costumes and vibrant interpretations of "Candyman", "Hit the Road Jack", "Got That Swing", and the like.

Dedicated to all the lovers in the house, a sweet cocktail of Miguel's "Adorn," coupled with Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" and topped with Al Green's "Love and Happiness" went down smoothly and set the stage for some rhythmic reggae and dancehall, meaning the best of Dennis Brown, Sean Paul, Junior Reid, Jah Bouks and Tarrus Riley. Then: a showstopping finale featuring such pop hits as Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie", Bruno Mars' "Treasure," Janelle Monae's "Tightrope" and the crowd-pleasing, simply nostalgic curtain-closer of OutKast's "Hey Ya."

Though a few original compositions would further solidify the appeal of this spirited posse, the depth and maturity they bring to the stage is nothing if not awe-inspiring. Along with the University Singers and the University Dramatic Arts Society (UDAS), whose upcoming mini production I'm especially looking forward to seeing, the spunky vibe of the UWI Pop Society members (Jade, Tiffani, Carlington, Kimberly and Chad, to name only a few) offers the compelling reminder that the performing arts remain alive and well on campus. As far as their recent concert season goes, if that's not the definition of raw talent, I don't know what is.

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