IT seems all roads led to the National Stadium on Saturday evening. From multiple traffic changes in the Corporate Area to countless postponed events, it was as if the Pope was paying us a visit and nobody wanted to miss it. By the time you got to the Stadium complex, you were swept up in a euphoric Grand Gala type of energy.
Buju Banton’s mega-concert to kick off his highly anticipated Long Walk to Freedom Tour was a homecoming celebration like no other. A nation’s way of saying ‘Welcome Home’ to a beloved son.
As we people-watched on Saturday night, it was largely a youthful, well-dressed crowd that came out to see the Gargamel and friends in concert. As patrons filed through the gates in their dozens, you took note of the couples, the singles, the all-male posses, the Rastas and baldheads alike.
The JUTC shuttled busloads of persons (mostly out-of-towners) from National Heroes’ Circle to the venue; tour bus companies transported their own busloads as well (adding to the large number of foreigners in attendance) and several VIP vehicles were seen getting the expected police escort. The place buzzed with excitement. These were people ready to be entertained.
The car parks were filled to capacity (Mas Camp was sea of SUVs, BMWs and other fancy models). Arthur Wint Drive, particularly the area around the Bob Marley statue, was converted into a lively marketplace, as everyone from jerked chicken vendors to the jelly man was determined to cash in on the action.
Non-ticket holders who wanted a Grandstand seat or a spot in the Bleachers made last-minute purchases from “sellers” who made their presence known with intermittent announcements. You couldn’t miss them. Thankfully, a heavy police presence prevented any vehicular pile-ups or mishaps. For such a huge event, there was a surprising absence of chaos and drama, at least from our vantage point.
After all, this momentous occasion was all about the music – and the not-to-be-missed opportunity of seeing a beloved reggae icon returning to the concert stage in front of a capacity home crowd. You want to be on your best behaviour. The vibe was nice.
As we paused by the main entrance to survey the landscape, we overheard a grateful vendor saying to somebody, “Ah di biggest show ever keep ah Jamaica.” And you know what? He could be right.