CROWD PLEASERS: Fantasia getting up close and personal with her audience. Below, Virgo hanging with a fan.
“I came to give you everything I got; that’s the kind of performer I am,” declared Fantasia Barrino, as she launched into her fantastic hour-long set at Blues on the Green, inside the Emancipation Park last Friday night. The seasoned songbird and Grammy winner was true to her word, as she delivered a performance that not only lived up her reputable talent but packed enough showstopping thrills to remind us that there’s no substitute for stagecraft and star quality.
Working with a more than competent backing band and a reliable pair of female background singers, the former American Idol champ (who has performed live in Jamaica before) chose a grown-and-sexy motif for her set, using her inspired song selections to address everything from the ups and downs of intimate relationships to female empowerment. The supersized audience cheered her on as she gave them everything she’s got. It was a mutually beneficial connection forged through tuneful resonance and relatability.
Renditions of the bouncy “So Much to Prove” and the tell-it-like-it-is “Man of the House” made way for crowd-pleasers like “Without Me” and “Free Yourself,” arguably her most popular soul-R&B record to date. “When I See You,” another well-known lovers’ anthem fared just as well, inciting a vociferous sing-along.
Using her piercing vocals to commanding effect, Barrino then offered her rousing interpretation of the vintage classic “A Change Gonna Come,” setting the stage for an old-school segment, largely instrumental, in which the songstress let loose, showing off her funky-diva dance moves. Back on the mic, the radio smash “Lose to Win Again” and “Summertime” closed a performance that was never short on energy and showstopping pizzazz.
To open Blues on the Green earlier in the evening, emcee Paula-Ann Porter-Jones called on Jesse Royal, whose rootsy melodies (“Next to You”) and though-provoking messages (“Modern-Day Judas”, etc.) struck a chord. He was followed by Romain Virgo, whose lengthier set brought a retrospective of all the major hits that secured him international fame in the wake of appearing on Rising Stars, the Jamaican answer to American Idol, which launched Barrino into the stratosphere.
He, too, warmed up the crowd with motivational pep talk and expressions of gratitude for the support that has kept his career afloat these past few years. Musically, all the Virgo magic was there. Takes on “Love Doctor”, “Rich in Love” and “Don’t You Remember?” made way for spirited interpretations of the standards ‘”Stay With Me”, “When A Woman Loves” and “When A Man Loves a Woman.”
It was a performance that would have felt incomplete without “Fade Away,” one of the most powerful reggae anthems of the moment, mixed with the kind of showmanship that has made Virgo the Beres Hammond of his youthful generation.