As preparations brew for Best of the Best 2012, cultural entertainment expert Michael Barnett shares his perspectives on Best of the Best 2011.
Best of the Best 2011 was in my opinion the best Reggae show in South Florida, for 2011, bar one, and that was of course the Before the Dawn, Buju Banton Concert. That concert was one of those truly all time classic live events and notably another Rockers Island production. All said and done however the Best of the Best 2011 concert was most certainly a most memorable concert. Why do I say that? Well with the likes of Tarrus Riley, Romain Virgo, Sanchez, Etana, I-Octane, Assassin, Vybz Kartel, Stephen Marley and Damian Marley as well as Shabba Ranks himself, this show just could not miss.
Tarrus Riley proved to me on the basis of his performance at Best of the Best 2011, one of the most consistent and solid performers that the Reggae industry has ever seen. His showman skills do his undeniable talent proud, guaranteeing the audience a tantalizing experience every time that he is on the bill. So powerful in fact was Tarrus’ performance, that Sanchez found himself struggling to maintain the same electricity as Tarrus Riley.
The next highlight of the show was one that was geared to thrill all the Hip Hop enthusiasts in the house. With DJ Khalid along with Busta Rhymes and Ludicrous on stage, no Hip Hopper could ask for more.
One of the unmistakable highlights of the show was the satellite broadcast of Vybz Kartel performing live in a club somewhere just outside of Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I must admit that I was initially skeptical that any broadcast performance could be integrated into a live music event, especially one that focused mainly on Reggae and Dancehall. However, I must admit that Vybz Kartel rose to the occasion, with strong performance skills, a good choice of repertoire, not only in terms of content, but in terms of the sequence in which he performed his hit tunes.(He performed hit songs such as: ‘Clarks’, ‘Ramping Shop’, ‘Jeans and Fitted’ and ‘Dumpa Truck’ among many others.) Additionally, he was able to pander to the whims of his Miami audience with impressive ease, as though he was physically present atBicentennialParkand not hundreds of miles away inJamaica, (a feat that should not be taken for granted.)
The real highlight of this show for me though was not, (somewhat surprisingly), the performance of Stephen and Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley, which was a stellar one, (as has come to be expected), but that of Shabba-Ranks, who reaffirmed to me that he is still the King of the Dancehall, (at least in my books).
It was 11:00pm when Shabba graced the stage, the cool night air electric with anticipation. Not only did Shabba Ranks live up to the anticipation, he gave (in my opinion) one of the performances of his life. For a while I had a mini-flashback of Shabba’s masterful unforgetable performance at Reggae Sunsplash in July 1990, at Montego Bay, Jamaica when he decimated the competition, including Ninja Man.
Here was Shabba-Ranks in his late forties, proving that age is just a number. After an energetic performance of “Trailer Load of Girls” Shabba brought on Maxi-Priest and the two of them did their big hit Tune “Housecall”. He then went on to do his Pirates Anthem, “Them ah call us Pirates” (a big hit in London,Englandin 1989), all that was missing was Cocoa Tea and Home-T. Then the slew of hits kept on coming. “Peanie Peanie”, “Love Punaany Bad”, “Mr Loverman”, “Slow and Sexy”.
It wasn’t just his hit sons that mesmerized his audience but his actual stage performance. Shabba gave the impression that he was feeling extremely X-rated that night as he engaged in a slow but deliberate strip-tease as his set progressed; taking off first his Jacket, then his waist coat, and opening up his shirt, making it clear to the ladies that he was still in shape, (with no sign of any middle age paunch). And just to drive home the point that his libido was still intact, Shabba performed, “Twice my Age”, with a young Rihanna look-a-like, engaging in a simulated sex routine that would put Elephant Man to shame. He humped the young lady so hard from behind, as she bent over with her posterior high up in the air, that she became visibly dis-oriented, much to the delight of the audience. The Lover-man “Shabba Ranks” was back, and if he had wanted to demonstrate this, on all accounts he was successful on the basis of this performance. After he closed his set, just a few minutes before Mid-night with “Ting-a-Ling- a-Ling (School Bell a ring)” and the crowd started to disperse for the exit, Shabba was the name that was on their lips, and he had communicated a distinct message (at least to the Miami Crowd). He, (Shabba Ranks), is still a force to be reckoned with within the Dancehall Music fraternity.