Headliners leave crowd wanting more
More than 1,600 people attended the Third Annual Lennon Bermuda Peace Day Concert in the Bermuda Botanical Gardens on Friday night.
And the audience appeared determined to stick around until the midnight hour to hear every last note delivered by headliner Biggie Irie and his SplashBand.
Who could blame them? For the past two years Irie has proved to be one of the outstanding artists at the concerts, and he was even more impressive this year with a sizzling set that had the crowd dancing from the very first song.
The Barbados star’s affinity with Bermuda and affection for the audience was touching. He started with Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up, and his musical selection included tributes to John Lennon with a Caribbean-flavoured version of Woman and The Beatles’ All My Loving. There was also a cover of 96 Degrees in the Shade, by way of a salute to the late Bunny Rugs, the singer with Jamaica’s Third World who died in February.
The showground at the Botanical Gardens was turned into an outdoor dance hall for the best part of an hour as Irie and his band delivered reggae and soca hits that created a party spirit. Some in the crowd danced the electric slide as Irie sang Third World’s Try Jah Love.
Earlier in the evening the UK’s Silken Strings, an all-female trio playing electric violins and cello, performed a striking set that combined classical and pop music and included Vivaldi and Misirlou from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
The Silken performers also accompanied Bermuda School of Music students at the start of the evening for an instrumental prelude to the night’s entertainment.
Last year the event was dogged by rain squalls, but on Friday it was a warm, still evening. Moments before Silken Strings began their set a falling meteoroid fleetingly burst into luminance in the clear night sky above the stage.
The Peace Day Concert was first held in 2012 as a tribute to Lennon, who worked on what became his last songs while staying in Bermuda in the summer of 1980. It was fitting that Andy Newmark, the drummer who played on Lennon’s final album Double Fantasy, was among this year’s musical guests.
Newmark, who grew up in Bermuda, performed with the Hamish Stuart Band. The group’s talented line-up was headed by Stuart, one of the mainstays of 1970s funk and R&B group The Average White Band.
A number of songs from Stuart’s extensive back catalogue were featured in the group’s set, along with a funky cover of Lennon’s Jealous Guy and a well received rendition of What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me, which was co-written by Stuart and turned into a chart hit by Chaka Khan.
Concert MC Mike Hind was on form with his ukulele version of Lennon’s peace anthem Imagine, which had many people singing along.
Bermuda’s Bones Band, featuring ‘Ocean Vet’ Neil Burnie on saxophone, were another group to grace the stage.
The first part of the concert featured a chill-out set from DJ Felix Todd and music from Jamie Lawson, Chrissi Poland and Richard Spencer, although this reviewer did not arrive in time to catch their performances.
Although attendance was slightly down this year, concert organiser Tony Brannon was delighted with the continuing success of the event. He joined Biggie Irie and the SplashBand towards the end of the night to sing Free, a song he co-wrote with SplashBand’s Jimmy Duncan in 1991 to celebrate the prison release of Nelson Mandela.
Soca singer Imani duetted with Mr Irie on her hit Get Over, before Mr Irie and the SplashBand closed the evening with a medley of classic hits by Mr Marley, climaxing with Jammin’.
They say you should always leave the audience wanting more, and that’s what Mr Irie did as he departed to cheers and calls for an encore. Alas, the concert’s curfew had been reached. The audience must now hope that Mr Irie and the SplashBand make it a Peace Day Concert fourth repeat appearance next year.
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Charles Smith (1932-2019)
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