Tuesday, 25 April 2017

POWER & PRAISE: Electric performances thrill concertgoers at Unity in the City gospel bash

CROWD PLEASERS: Greene connected with a stirring blend of his popular and more recent tunes; (below) Downswell, Blakka & Bello wowing the packed arena.

Innovative stagecraft and forging a solid connection with your audience are key to delivering a great live show. The headline acts who took to the stage at Easter Monday’s Unity in the City grand gospel concert, inside the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston, seemed to have little difficulty winning over the supersized crowd (scores of patrons had to be turned back), as they delivered performances laced with vigour, sturdy vocals, and the occasional whiff of panache. 

To say the least, it was a thoroughly entertaining concert that, thankfully, lived up to our high expectations. In other words, the hundred who shelled out their big bucks to see Travis Greene light up the stage were not disappointed, as the Grammy-nominated US-based gospel star gave an electrifying set, armed with his trusty guitar and casual gear (a cool-kid cap included) that kept us in his thrall for well over an hour. 

“This is my first time in Kingston but it won’t be my last,” Greene told the enthusiastic concertgoers before launching into “We Are Here For You,” a burst of rhythmic energy that introduced us to his 5-piece backing band and three back-up vocalists. Up next were tunes like “See the Light,” during which a sea of dazzling cell-phone screens lit up the auditorium, and the prayerful “You Have Won the Victory.” A massive sing-along accompanied “Intentional” and his Grammy-nominated hit “Made a Way,” which closed his set on a golden high. 

Jermaine Edwards, a vision in dazzling white, brought his powerful brand of island worship with “Smile”, “There’s a Peace”, “I Feel Free” and the keyboard-assisted “Hallelujah to our King.” Kevin Downswell also gave the people what they came for, drawing on selections like “All the Way,” “If It’s Not You” and “Nobody Loves Me The Way You Do” ahead of renditions of “That’s Enough”, “One Day”, “Goodbye World” (alongside a couple of male dancers) and the jubilant finale that “Stronger” provided. 

Papa San, ever the reliable show-close, expertly brought up the rear with a bunch of his timeless hits, among them “Jesus My Saviour”, “Tell Devil Loose”, “Jesus Make Me Smile Again” and the sensational “Shake Your Tambourina.” 

Earlier in the night, we heard from the fiercely talented Rondell Positive who, alongside his I-Worshipp collaborators, proved he’s still more than a conqueror; R&B-gospel act Ray Soul, powerhouse songstress Ashayla Shenae, fast-emerging singer-songwriter Kevin Heath and the awesome Transformed Life Church Singers. 

We laughed out loud at the spot-on comedic stylings of industry veterans Blakka & Bello (still killing it after all these years) and Leighton Smith, who knows how to make the grumpy/grouchy downright hilarious. Nadine Blair and Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis were the night’s delightful emcees.

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