The inherent drawback with reviewing charity music shows like Shaggy & Friends is that the bona fides of the cause - well established in this case - tend to preclude a fulsome critique, cause one really does not want to cast oneself as "The Grinch" .
That being said, the overall feeling this writer had in the wee hours of Sunday morning upon leaving the lawns of Kings House after the 2018 edition of the Shaggy and Friends show was "good....even very good in parts, but definitely not great". The many acts each gave at least was asked of them (and quite a few gave more), the staging and sound were - mostly - top-notch, and the hospitality was engaging and genuine, despite some logistical limitations.
The host himself set the show in motion, accompanied by Jovi Rockwell (preceded by a guitar ensemble that was hampered by minor technical glitch), the latter making a welcome return in a silver floor-length but still exuding her casual "game for anything" persona
Romain Virgo and Chris Martin each had brief solo turns before doing their hit collab "Leave Peple Business Alone" Ding Dong and his Ravers Clavers "small army" led the inevitable onstage dance class and also ran through the near anthemic "Holiday" Mr Beat Box, the immortal Doug E Fresh took it up just a notch, with a variety of selections and reminding folks what actual hip-hop was about.
That energy went even further through the natural dynamism of Bunji Garlin and Fayann Lyons , putting their undeniable chemistry to good effect, even while engaging in the cliched exercise of "my side of the ground is louder than your side" routine.
Chaka Demus and Pliers were evergreen. Wayne Wonder had good vibe, if noticeably off-key and
Junior Reid, I felt, took it past the proverbial "red-line" of what the audience would have reasonably tolerated from him. Barrington Levy seemed both awkward and exuberant at the same time, but enjoyed the admiration of the host, who joined him onstage for a promo of their upcoming show.
Dancehall star Aidonia did his already burgeoning career a great favour with a self-assured yet generous set that demonstrated he was ready to step ahead of the multiple contenders vying for the dancehall "crown" still being worn - however uneasily - by the incarcerated Kartel.
With word that en extension had been granted, the Fireman Capleton took the stage around 3 am in a typically dazzling outfit incorporating multiple hues and shapes and, as he has countless times before, jumped and railed and blasted to good effect.
Fetty Wap was unfortunate no-show, the audience learning that he had become a father, but the newborn weighed a mere one pound. No doubt the trap artist would also have been hampered by the frigid weather associated with the US bomb cyclone
But, to my main source of discontent: the headliner Sting was the night's biggest disappointment. He looked and sounded good (save for being nearly overshadowed by his own bass) and - looking around the venue during the performance, the audience reception ranged from impressed to rapturous. But one expects the headliner to close, and to offer a fulsome exposition justifying their position. The musical repast that fans (like this writer) was expecting turned out to be little more than an amuse-bouche. There were, for sure, some tasty morsels ("Every Breath You Take" and "Message In A Bottle" with a typically zippy update from Agent Sasco, who Sting graciously introduced as "my good friend"), but not the "grand sit-down" that one had been primed for in the build-up. This is even more disappointing when one considers that other acts had extended sets who really should have been edited - Reid was one. If scheduling and logistics posed a challenge then it might have been better to curtail or even move him up even higher on the roster, though this would clearly have negatively affected the latecomers
The mantle of headliner thus fell to Wyclef and, to his credit, he carried it well. Like Doug E before him, the former Fugees front man gave a nice expo on hip-hop, but also weaved in his own diverse musical influences, including no small debt to Jamaican music.
We all understand there are lives to be saved and, let's face it, the children who will benefit from those additional ICU beds (not mention their parents and the hard-working caregivers) will not care one whit about the quality of the performances. But, to paraphrase Shakespeare, "the show's the thing" and there's a correlation between a transcendent musical experience and the will to give even more when the occasion is renewed.
Shaggy and Friends has delivered this kind of transcendence in the past, and this writer is confident that it will in the future. On to 2020!