Good shows always leave the audience wanting more and this was certainly one of those times.
A pitch-perfect headliner, a host of local acts that shone, and a Luther Vandross tribute that was the sort of concert Bermuda has been yearning for.
From the marvelous performance of ‘American Idol' winner Ruben Studdard to the impressive staging and lighting, Sunday night's affair at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess was a joy from start to finish.
Bootsie took the stage first, introducing the show and employing a casual, almost effortless brand of humour that had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand throughout.
The first vocalist to perform was local favorite Jaime Zuill. Mr Zuill exhibited a much stronger vocal range than I remember and his once lilting falsetto has become a powerful tenor.
In his delightful 20-minute set, during which he was accompanied by the incomparable Robert Edwards on the keyboard, Mr Zuill belted out favorites like Earth, Wind, and Fire's ‘Let's Groove', Johnny Gill's ‘My, My, My', and a double dose of Luther with the smooth ‘Take You Out', and the resourceful ‘Love the One You're With'.
Next up was Lloyd Holder, who was responsible for perhaps the best moment of the entire show. With Mr Edwards backing him on an old fashioned baby grand piano, Holder sang an acoustic version of the Luther Vandross masterpiece ‘A House is not a Home' that was simply transcendent.
Ladies screamed, fellas pouted, I think I even blushed at one point (I was sitting at a table with a particularly exuberant female supporter). This was the signature performance of the evening, and virtually brought the house down. Why Mr Holder is not an internationally renowned artist is a mystery to me today, because he certainly has all the required equipment to be a star; a simply stunning performance.
Mr Holder finished his set by singing two duets with local songstress McCartney Darrell. The pair looked into each other's eyes, caressed each other's hands, and offered superb renditions of the Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway classic ‘The Closer I Get to You' and the Lionel Richie and Diana Ross standard ‘Endless Love.'
Gita Blakeney-Saltus was the last of the local acts. Mrs Blakeney-Saltus was also accompanied by Mr Edwards, back on the keyboard this time, and in even rarer form. The veteran duo presented a polished, refined act; chock-full of classics by noted Luther Vandross influences like Gladys Knight and Al Green.
‘Let's Stay Together' found Mrs Blakeney-Saltus at her groove-laden best, while ‘You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me' allowed her to exhibit an emotional range that only comes once dues have been paid, and chops have been established.
After a brief intermission, Ruben Studdard took the stage with nothing more than a six-pack of water and a hand towel. He proceeded to charm his way through a remarkably generous and decidedly marvelous show.
Mr Studdard was on stage for more than an hour on Sunday night. He was singing to tracks and this was, perhaps, the best experience I've ever had listening to an artist do so. The quality of Mr Studdard's voice, paired with the excellence of the sound system, made this an awesome show to behold.
He sang a lot of songs. Songs from his latest album, ‘Letters From Birmingham'; the meteorological ‘Love Skies', the Freddie Jackson opus ‘Rock Wit' Cha' and the encore we demanded ‘June 28th (I'm Single)'. He also sang songs from his first album: the hit ‘Sorry 2004' and the Larry Meredith standard popularised by the Carpenters, ‘For All We Know'. We also heard his mother's two favourite songs: the Kris Kristofferson classic ‘For the Good Times' and the Bee Gees opus ‘How Do You Mend A Broken Heart', both of which were recorded and popularised by Al Green.
Yeah, he sang a lot of songs. He was also very charming and engaging throughout, taking his time to do the thing right, and talking to the audience like he'd known us for years. Mr Studdard was an instant hit, even trading friendly barbs with a few impatient audience members; folks who couldn't wait for the Luther Vandross tribute and kept calling for it.
Once Mr Studdard Ruben closed the show with a medley of Luther hits, including the decadent ‘Never Too Much', the sublime ‘Superstar', and the sentimental ‘If Only For One Night' all the waiting seemed to make sense.
This was a magnificent show; the kind of show that Bermuda has been yearning for and the first of what we all hope will be a series of such concerts. The promoters should be very proud of the outstanding production they delivered.
Bravo Bermuda Night Out team, and please, how about an encore?
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