Excellent Salute enjoys strong turnout
Mel Cooke, Star Writer
Mud in the parking lot and soggy earth in patches on the Port Kaiser Sports Club's outfield were testament to rain earlier on Saturday, before Pepsi Rebel Salute began its 18th renewal marathon, which ended in the rising Sunday sun.
Still, as the pre-event downpour did not deter the 'Saluters', in his pre-midnight birthday performance, the festival's chief organiser, Tony Rebel, was moved to declare "people come a Salute inna every weather". And Queen Ifrica, a Rebel Salute alumni who said she has performed on 11 stagings, declared that there would be "no boring part" in the show this year.
The fiery Ifrica was right, although there were those youngsters who got impatient with Toots Hibbert's somewhat extended set, although his voice was in fantastic nick as he delivered Country Road, Bam Bam and Dreams to Remember, among other standouts. Hibbert performed the songs in full and there were some pauses between selections, as he consulted with his band. In addition, Third Element sound system had its down moments, at one point the mic man declaring "me cyaa work in confusion". However, they pressed on to generate some traction, notably with Sizzla selections.
Overwhelmingly, though, Pepsi Rebel Salute 2011 was marked by excellent performances which peaked at various points with the night's standouts in longer sets, among them Ifrica (who started out as a Lioness on the Rise and closed with a defiant Keep it to Yourself) and a simply superb Beres Hammond who embraced the thousands as family and delivered a 'brawta' from offstage at the very end of his performance. Tarrus Riley and Dean Fraser paid homage to Buju Banton with Untold Stories on voice and saxophone, respectively, and I-Octane did not get further than a couple lines in each song before the howling hordes happily drowned him out and coloured the air with fluttering red, green and gold flags.
And Mavado, whose joy showed in a wide grin, was in full-fledged Messiah mode before an exultant audience which demanded that he return to the stage twice.
"Yuh know why a Jah alone me fear?" Mavado demanded, saying that there were those who would love to see his downfall "but because the thugs rate me, the woman them love me and the Rasta pray fi me, Jah watch over me".
However, as strong as those showings were, they were the superstructure on a firm foundation, the consistently high standard and well-structured running order (save for the closing stages where post-Mavado was understandably anticlimactic) setting the stage for highly anticipated performers to develop on an already favourable atmosphere.
The foundation-laying task was taken on by those artistes with enduring songs, often labelled vintage, in the early going, Lone Ranger squeezing the Love Bump, Carl Dawkins dancing around the microphone stand to the Satisfaction of the crowd and Little John demanding "yu tink a dat?!" in transitioning between songs (although, curiously, he did not do Clarks Bootie). Dennis Al Capone came before Ken Boothe, who delivered Silver Words and trademark twirls, Tristan Palmer hit the spot with Entertainment and Jack Radics' peculiar rasping, near raucous style kept the audience engaged.
There were tributes to Gregory Isaacs, including Nadine Sutherland doing a part of Soon Forward in a short showing before heading off to attend Before the Dawn Matters.
The band changes were, in the main, well handled, a fire dancer covering one and a gleefully gutsy Sky Juice another.
Professor Nuts injected the humour of Tan So Back, Sister Carol stuck to the rhythm like the proverbial glue and in the daylight post-Mavado minutes, it was up to Spanner Banner, Chuck Fendah and Fantan Mojah to close off a long but very satisfying night.