Artists shine in stunning display
Living up to the spectacular success of the first Lennon Bermuda Peace Day concert was always going to be a tough task, but despite a few rain showers on Saturday evening there was plenty to delight the thousands who attended the second annual concert at the Botanical Gardens.
There was a surprise appearance by Bermuda international recording artist Heather Nova, a return by Barbados recording star Biggie Irie, and a headline set from New York’s renowned Fab Faux.
This year’s event celebrated not only John Lennon’s connection with the Island (he stayed in Bermuda for two months in 1980 writing what became his final songs), but also the music of Bob Marley and The Beatles.
The Island’s home-grown talent shone brightly, with the first half of the evening seeing the welcome return of a handful of performers from the original concert. Rachel Brown reprised her splendid interpretation of ‘Watching the Wheels’ and returned during an acoustic interlude with three original compositions, including a delightful ode to Bermuda.
The spirit of Mr Lennon’s songwriting originality was perhaps best represented by Michelle Morfitt, who was the first during the evening to play her own material. The singer-guitarist’s ‘Brothers’ was poignant. “Anyone with a gun can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea,” she sang. Robert (Sai) Emery sang ‘Imagine’, McCartney K delivered ‘Grow Old With Me’ one of the most striking songs Mr Lennon worked on while in Bermuda.
K Gabrielle was a standout performer last year, and was just as stunning on Saturday with her soul-wrenching take of ‘I’m Losing You’.
Heather Nova’s sang Mr Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ — modifying the lyrics slightly for a female perspective, followed by ‘Don’t Let Me Down’.
Uzimon’s cod-reggae version of ‘New York City’ was infectious. As a short-lived rain shower swept across the arena he donated his all-in-one white overalls to a member of the audience, while others hurriedly donned plastic ponchos.
One of the Island’s most talented singers Joy T Barnum looked stunning as she sang, managing to refresh her appearance as she came on to duet with Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell and former Tourism minister Wayne Furbert on ‘All You Need is Love’ before reappearing with the Glass Onion Band (featuring concert organiser Tony Brannon) to perform Mr Lennon’s 1973 track ‘Mind Games’. She also accompanied ukulele-playing singer Mike Hind on Mr Marley’s ‘Lively Up Yourself’ and made her final appearance of the night with Biggie Irie’s Splashband as the band bounced through Mr Marley’s ‘Jammin’’.
Other early evening performers were Phil Morrison, Mark Brown, Bermuda School of Music and Chris Finsness. Master of ceremonies Jimmy Keys provided plenty of jokes and light-hearted asides during the evening.
Last year Roy Young’s boogie-woogie performance was the lightning rod that created a party atmosphere as the audience danced to early rock and roll tunes, including The Beatles’ ‘When I Saw Her Standing There.’ This year Biggie Irie and The Splashband, from Barbados, supplied the party spirit with reggae beats that soon had many dancing between the tables and on the hillside.
Mr Irie paid homage to Mr Lennon, singing ‘Woman’ and The Beatles’ ‘All My Loving’. A highlight was a performance of ‘Free’, written by band member Jimmy Duncan and Mr Brannon in 1990 in reaction to Nelson Mandela’s release.
When Mr Irie and his band launched into a string of Bob Marley classics, including ‘No Woman No Cry’, ‘One Love’ and ‘Three Little Birds’ the party was in full swing.
Another rain shower delayed the start of The Fab Faux’s headline set. The band could not be faulted in their execution of Beatles tracks, many from the latter part of the band’s career.
Drummer Rich Pegano singing style and nuances eerily mirrored the late Mr Lennon on ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and a masterful version of ‘Day in the Life’ that wrapped up their set. The band ran ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band (reprise)’ into ‘Day in the Life’ — replicating how the tracks were presented on the 1967 ‘Sgt Pepper’ album.
All five members of the New York-based band took turns singing. There were ‘deep cut’ album gems, such as ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’, ‘Anna (Go To Him)’, ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite’ and ‘I’m Looking Through You’, and mid-career moments including ‘Day Tripper’, ‘Drive My Car’ and a soaring version of the George Harrison-penned ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, sung by Frank Agnello.
Bass player and singer Will Lee, who has performed with former Beatles Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, was an eye-catching band leader. All that was missing was the spark to ignite the audience to party at the end of the night. Only when concert organiser Mr Brannon joined them onstage for the encore ‘Twist and Shout’ did the audience once more dance.
The Lennon Bermuda Peace Day concert has clearly earned a place in the affections of many Islanders, and if the organisers can combine the finest elements of the past two years into a 2014 event then the best may yet be to come.