By Natasha Ofosu
Trinidad & Tobago | Wednesday 2 March 2016: 21:21 GMT
The idea that Machel Montano’s ‘Monk’ alter ego has anything to do with piety and restraint collapses in a pool of absurdity when you consider his lyrics and stage shows. More credible and certainly evident at his Machel Monday concert on 1 February 2016 was the fraternity he shared with the artistes whom he hosted on stage at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain. What those chosen ones expressed in return was a respect and appreciation for him as an elder, guide and facilitator in the soca industry. Ravi B opened the show just after 8.30pm with his band Karma featuring co-singers Krystal Kayne and Abbyshi Jackson. Their repertoire included soca, chutney-soca and a hint of pop. The band had a clean sound and were generally well-received. They provided strong backing for St Lucia’s Teddyson John who is enjoying a dream debut Carnival season in Trinidad with the anthemic Allez. Barbadian Party Monarch and Road March king Peter Ram also performed with Karma and delivered a polished rendition of his hit song All Ah We. Cloud 5 were Karma’s final guests. Sporting possibly the tightest jeans of the night, the Grenadian duo gave a boisterous performance of No Behaviour (Whole Place Shell Down). Montano took to the stage with a flourish of smoke and confetti sometime after 10pm. He introduced himself with a mix of 2016 songs including Waiting on the Stage, his Road March contender, and Human on the Ti Punch rhythm as well as hits from the recent past such as Like Ah Boss, Pop Ah Bottle and Haunted Feeling. Reigning Groovy Soca Monarch Olatunji Yearwood was the first guest to join Montano for their duet Where I’m From. Both singers had fun with Olatunji doing some comical antics at times. Montano then left him to sing his competition-winner Ola and his 2016 offering Afro Soca solo. That set the pattern for the rest of the night as Montano did duets with most artistes before allowing them space to do their own songs. With performances from no less than 20 local and international acts, including Angela Hunte, Voice, Patrice Roberts, Kerwin Du Bois, Omi, Skinny Fabulous, Lil John, Tarrus Riley and Pitbull, the show threatened to be difficult to digest. However, the segments were tightly orchestrated and appeared well-rehearsed, which ensured proceedings flowed smoothly and were palatable. One technique used was to have artistes on the same rhythm follow each other as happened with M1 and Salty on the RR Rhythm who sang Trouble and Girl Meets Brass respectively. Nigerian Afro-Beats singer Timaya’s latest collaboration with Montano, Better Than Them, paved the way for Morvant-born dancehall artiste Pternsky to perform Non-stop and Charly Black from Jamaica to sing Party Animal, all of which are on the Jambe An rhythm. Some standout moments included the appearance of 2016 Junior Soca Monarch Aaron Duncan. His command of the stage as well as the theme of his tune Can You Feel It were so reminiscent of a young Montano, that the elder singer joked that it may be the right time for him to retire. The moment set Montano up neatly to segue into an abridged version of Too Young To Soca, the song that brought him to the public’s attention 30 years ago. The biggest talking point and surprise of the night, however, was the resurrection of 1980s reggae sound system Chinese Laundry featuring radio impresario Tony Chow Lin On, who bears the same stage name as the system, and DJ Signal to Noise (Joel Morris). With Laundry handling the microphone and Signal on the turntables, the duo energised the crowd with dubplates and live performances by Jamaican special guests Wayne Wonder, Cutty Ranks and Chaka Demus and Pliers. More DJs followed when Montano was joined by Assassin, DJ Stephen and Private Ryan to explore his back catalogue, running through hits from Music Farm and Torro Torro to We Not Giving Up and Get Mad. Montano then celebrated his Road March winning tracks during an acoustic set with the man responsible for penning them singer and musician Kernal Roberts. Tunes such as Band of the Year, Advantage, Pump Yuh Flag and Jumbie were slowed down and pared back as Roberts played them on a grand piano. They also sang It’s Carnival, which easily rates as one of the best road songs never to have won the Road March. Now a solo artiste, Roberts performed his 2016 offering Legacy before Montano brought the tempo up to close the show. Montano made a point throughout the night of highlighting the younger guests as ‘the future’ of soca music. While he revealed that at 41 years old, it was not easy for him to do what he does (and as if to prove the point he even showed the audience his bandaged right knee) the scale of his concert and the proliferation of his music show he has no intention of slowing down. Machel has also made it three out of three wins by capturing the 2016 National Road March title in Trinidad and Tobago with Waiting on the Stage which was played 328 times at carnival judging ponts.