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Maxi Priest And Bunji Garlin At VP records 35th Anniversary Concert, Summerstage, Saturday, June 27th, 2015


Reggae is far from dead.

Every Reggae concert I go to -last years Chronixx gig at this very same Summerstage for one, has been packed to overflowing, with fans of the riddem while you were listening to Ariana Grande. But while mainstream US pop fans might think they don’t pay it much mind, one of the two acts I saw had an EDM hit by Diplo and the other a remix with Nicki Minaj, so they are hearing it anyway.

Yeah Reggae isn’t what it was, it doesn’t go neck to neck with rock or soul,,but it isn’t Juju Music either. What it is is  the most popular form of Third World pop around.

Summerstage was packed to the gills for VP Records 35th Anniversary gig this afternoon, maybe not that impressive since you’d expect a lot of fans for the greatest Reggae Indie Label by a long shot (Beres Hammond, Capleton and Barrington Levy to name but three, record for them) but considering that the great Maxi Priest decided to bring the weather with him, and that he is from England not Jamaica, you might be willing to hand it to the fans.

I was excited for a full day of reggae, but waiting for it to stop raining I arrived late, and drenched to the skin, I left during Maxi’s set and I still had a very very good time. Maxi I expected to be great and with a terrific rock band behind him, he was superb, but Soca superstar Bunji Garlin was a complete surprise to me; with only a DJ to back him, he had the smarts (and the beard) of a complete star.

I completely missed Garlin’s 2014 Differentology and I have no excuse but I do have a reason or two. First, I don’t follow Reggae closely enough -it doesn’t show up on my radar except for occasional breakout hits like “Rude” by Magic. and second the Soca guy is much better live. His hit “Differentology (Ready For The Road)” is better on stage than either the original or the Major Lazer take on it. So who is Bunji? From his bio: ” Born Ian Alvarez, the Trinidadian ragga soca star Bunji Garlin is known for blending of soca with dancehall. Hailed recently by Rolling Stone as “America’s first soca star,” Garlin has clearly taken his native country’s genre to new heights.” Plus, he released his eleven album last yar and is a full on rock and roll star on stage, singing water soaked Soca to a very impressed audience.

Maxi Priest we expected to be great, on record he is pop and reggae and on stage he is a rock and reggae with a masterful lead guitarist. Sly and Robbie produced some of last years Easy To Love, but on stage this was not Lover’s Rock. he opened the set with the 1990 “A Little Bit Longer” but while the recorded version is bright eyed UB40ish reggae riddem soul pop, on stage it was a barnstormer, and lead the set to a show stopping “Wild World”, a trade off take no prisoners that doubled as a singalong. That guitarist handled the lick better than Cat stevens dead last year in Philadelphia.

I left half an hour in, the rain was ridiculous, it is still raining as I write this! More is the pity, Maxi Priest is a topnotch popsmith old school,  and on stage he does exactly what he should, stands is the middle of the stage and throws it down and then steps back and gives the guitarist some Half an hour in, Maxi was joined by another singer I didn’t recognize, and while it didn’t add it sure didn’t subtract.. A fine set. The weather ruined it for me, but not for that sea of umbrellas.

Grade: A-


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