The hundreds of patrons who attended the Life 97.5 Crop Over Gospel Concert last night must have come away with on a high after three hours of inspirational and celebratory music in the plush surroundings of the official residence of the Prime Minister.
Ilaro Court was transformed into an outdoor church auditorium. And patrons, including Minister of Youth and Culture Stephen Lashley and Chief Executive Officer of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) Cranston Browne, were treated to the rhythms of the Caribbean, as some of the big names in local and regional gospel music arena took to the stage under lovely, clear skies.
New artiste Vanessa contributed to the Caribbean feel with her special dose of reggae, while this island’s number one band, Promise, delivered a “meal” of mostly originals in soca and calypso. Promise, which has been in existence for more than 30 years now, even threw in one of the biggest foreign gospel hits in Barbados, I Know Who I Am by Sinach, which brought a generally quiet audience up to that point, to its feet. The band, with James Leacock on lead vocals, also performed some of its own big numbers, such as I Know Who Holds My Hand, Raise Your Hand And Sing Hallelujah and Born Again.
Before leaving the stage, the group rocked the Ilaro Court “auditorium” with I Command. The musical renditions were mixed in with well choreographed and interpreted movements from the Psalm 150 Dancers, who illustrated the the popularity of I Know Who I Am by using it as their accompaniment. The colourfully-dressed young women were impressive and received a well-deserved, rousing round of applause.
With expectations high, Trinidadian act J Prince appeared on stage with The Blood as his first offering, but he did not create much of a stir. He had to urge people to shout for Jesus. I thought he did too much ‘pulling up’ of the music as he launched into his second soca rendition My God Is Good-oh. And even though he tried to fire up the crowd, which was spread across the lush greens of Illaro, he got little encouragement from them. At least three times, J Prince called out to those on the hill to come up front – seemingly oblivious to the preferential seating arrangements – but no one moved a muscle.
Much of his set consisted of the more fast to medium-paced calypso/soca, fused with rap, but the T&T gospel artiste received greater audience participation when he brought down the tempo completely and rendered a soulful and inspirational ballad titled Serious.
People, who were quitely sitting in their seats near to the stage, rose to their feet and sang along or raised their hands in a prayerful mood or shouted “hallelujah”. He took the tempo back up with his penultimate ragga soca number, When The Roll Is Calling, which got some call-and-response participation.
Though his final number Fire was generally ok, musically, it seemed not to make the connection with the audience.
However, Sean Daniel, the young man behind the The Waving Ting smash song, lifted patrons out of their chairs and put them in a dancing, waving and sing along mood, as he belted out his first offering.
Then he went into Running, and yes, you guessed it, young people were running up and down in front of the stage. He followed up with more hits, such as You Are The Magnet, We Worship You and Jesus Alone.
We Worship You, a slow praise and worship song, was made more impactful and powerful by Sean’s beautiful vocal tones. It was magnetic!
It lured patrons into standing, raising their hands in worship, some closing their eyes, other singing praises, as evidence of the spirit that blanketed the grounds last night.
Barbados’ number one gospel artiste, De Warrior, closed the evening’s proceedings in his inimitable and dynamic style and gave the people the songs they expected him to give. We’re talking big releases, such as De Blood, Won’t Go Back, Only One Name, and two of his newest, Goodie, Goodie and Aint Leffing. Of course, De Warrior ended with De Blood.
Even before he could get into that song, seats that were filled for the entire night became empty, as the front of the stage became flooded with people who were “sprinkling the blood all over them, their friends, their sons and daughters and mothers and fathers”.
Needless to say, De Warrior brought the Life 97.5 Crop Over Gospel Concert to a rocking end at Ilaro Court last night.