When an artiste can make covers seem so refreshingly different, that they basically seem his own, then one must sit up and pay attention.
That was precisely the case Friday night when veteran lovers’ rock exponent Leroy Gibbons took to the stage at Vintage Reggae at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex. Whether they stood up, sat up or jumped up, those in the packed Gymnasium paid rapt attention.
From the moment he arrived to the strains of Four Season Lover, Gibbons, a newcomer to the Barbados Reggae Festival, lifted the tempo in the already hot hall to fever pitch. Blessed with excellent vocals, Gibbons breathed new life into Sam Cooke’s Cupid, The Drifters’ Magic Moment, Clyde McPhatter’s It’s A Lover’s Question and Bob Dylan’s Knocking On Heaven’s Door, among others. In front of the stage resembled a sea of humanity with arms waving and bodies swaying to Gibbons’ every note.
Many would later complain that as someone new to the local stage Gibbons could have been allocated additional time. They had a case, as his departure seemed to leave many in the audience begging for more, which they never got, as organizers were obviously on the clock. Gibbons made that sort of impression on fans.
Also making quite a first impression was Marcia Griffiths. The 65-year-old Queen Of Reggae turned heads not only with her music but also with her youthful looks.
Her set epitomized the nostalgic essence of the show. Not only did she take the young and old in the audience down memory lane with songs she would have performed in her pomp as a soloist, with I-Threes and as a member of Bob Marley and The Wailers, but she paid homage to several of her departed colleagues.
With fans screaming their delight at virtually everything emanating from her mouth, she rocked The Gymnasium with songs such as Desmond Decker’s Israelites, Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop, Bunny Wailer’s Dreamland and Electric Boogie, as well as Bob Marley’s Buffalo Soldiers. Griffiths basically stole the show from her male counterparts, even encouraging Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss, among others, to remove some rust onstage while doing the electric slide.
Boris Gardiner returned to a stage with which he has now become quite familiar and whetted the appetites of fans early in the night with selections such as Someone Loves You Honey and Let’s Keep It That Way. It has now become standard for Gardiner to pay tribute to the late lamented Johnny Ace who shot himself more than 50 years ago. And once again his rendition of Ace’s Pledging My Love was special.
At 73, Dobby Dobson was the most “vintage” of them all on stage, giving couples in the audience the opportunity to dance the night away to selections such as Endlessly, Sweet Dreams, This Is My Story, and more.
Chaka Demus And Pliers didn’t quite connect with the crowd, but still had their moments with the familiar Murder She Wrote and Tease Me. Most fans were politely appreciative of their set.
Throughout the period of the Jamaican acts onstage, instrumental accompaniment was provided by Fab Five, a show of endurance and skill not to be underappreciated. And this came after they had performed their own set.
It was good to see and hear the multiskilled Astley “Grub” Cooper on lead vocals again, following his escape from serious injury in a vehicular accident last year. He has been the voice of Fab Five since the passing of the legendary Peter Scarlett.
Admiral Tibett brought the excellent show to conclusion as the morning approached the 4 a.m. hour and those who had not departed, showed signs of fatigue. The huge numbers that still remained were energized by Tibett who owned the 1980s and early 1990s with a string of memorable songs such as Come Into The Light, Serious Time and Reality.
Earlier, Biggie Irie had demonstrated his proven class during his set with a few numbers dedicated to the memory of the recently departed John Holt, as well as Gregory Isaac, who passed away in 2010, and who were both regular performers in the island.