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Millie Jackson brings back memories at Blues Fest

Millie Jackson brings back memories at Blues Fest

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The 2005 Blues Festival wrapped up Saturday night ending two days of performances at Buccama on the Bay on the mainland.

This weekend ended a period of music which is being confused between being called a Blues Fest on the mainland and simply Bequia Music Fest on that island while the precursor, the Mustique Blues Festival is heard less and less of these days. {{more}}

The activities had kicked off a week earlier in the Grenadines with performances by groups out of the UK, Barbados and the US. On the mainland though there was a marked presence of local performers as warm-up acts on both nights for headliners Millie Jackson on Friday and Steel Pulse on the Saturday wrap.

Friday began with Son J and Friends with a set that was steady and respectable. It showed that Son J is indeed a talented artiste whom the public does not hear often enough. This, his second showing at the Blues Fest, has offered the sort of exposure he craves but needs to back up with some recording to transcend to the next level. He ended his set with a pair of dancers attempting some latin influenced steps.

MC Bernard John was in very straight-up and serious mood as he introduced the various acts between changeover breaks that one wished could be avoided. Those breaks benefit most the operations of the various refreshment bars which all ran a brisk business.

Next onstage was St.Lucia’s Carl Gustave, perhaps the only really blues artiste to make it onstage during the two nights of performances. His set was exciting and powerful with strong vocals and searing guitar licks from Gustave who, along with his bass player and drummer provided a tight performance that the audience lapped up. Sadly though, it seemed that they violated their stipulated time onstage, which had an anxious stage manager Michael Peters gesticulating from the wings to no avail.

As a result, the next act, the much anticipated Arturo Tappin and Nicholas Brancker out of Barbados, had to cut short their set. They came onstage to much applause playing a jazzed up version of Kevin Lyttle’s monster hit Turn Me On before launching into their rest of their shortened set demonstrating a level of professionalism through a touch of Marley, which revealed the results of Tappin’s session work with so many US jazz bards. A pity we did not get to see Brancker switch from his bass guitar to keyboards. His bass solo was however well appreciated. When they left the stage we felt robbed.

By the time Millie Jackson came onstage, she perhaps more so than members of the audience had just about waited long enough. Of course this was not the Millie Jackson we saw in the pre-show advertisements but it was very much the raunchy Jackson those of us who were hooked on her in the 70s could have expected. She declared herself the orginal female rapper as indeed she had right to so claim. It was Jackson who put out albums back then where she mouthed off at men, just as she did Friday night.

Clad in red leather capris, this mature lady showed that she could still strut her stuff despite her years. Her rendition of Too long In The Rain and other old hits evoked applause and much nostalgia.

Millie Jackson must have been grateful for this invitation, as she said during performance, she was surprised to be invited to a blues festival. That in itself tells a story. She came complete with her 12-man band for this tropical gig that they seemed to enjoy.

After last year’s hit performance by the Manhattans, the organisers must think they are onto something here. Vincentian audiences are appreciative of quality performers, no matter that they are not current chart riders.

Day two offered a mixed bag of totally Caribbean artistes, a true Caribbean night, literally. The band Touch was given the task of starting the show and putting patron in a mood. This band has earned a lot of respect at home and throughout the region and demonstrated why. This is one of the smoothest Soca ensembles you can find anywhere and one of the few which would be accepted at a show labelled blues. They ran through most of the hits before inviting Gillian Williams onstage for a mellow version of Dionne Warwick’s I know I ‘ll never love this way again.

The Vincentian component of this Caribbean night continued with a youthful group called Xpressionz with the talented Dexter Bacchus out front on soprano sax. This group surprised many as they went through several ballads including a loveable rendition of Misty performed by singer Shana Edwards. They were joined onstage by Kahalia Beache who performed the self-penned Sad lone love songs which had only recently taken her to the runner up position in the Caribbean Miss Big and Beautiful Contest in the Virgin Islands. Xpressionz is a group that can only get better under the tutelage of maestro Joffre Venner, who on this occasion supported his charges on guitar.

Yaphatoo made a brief appearance before Qshan Deyah appeared out of the audience singing acapella and demonstrating superb vocal skills before being joined by the veteran saxophonist Lio Smith and his group for a happy-go lucky blues session.

That set the tone for what was arguably the best performance of the two nights when the petite Michelle Henderson from Dominica graced the stage with her band. This was simply an amazing performance from a young woman who possesses great stage presence, a fantastic vocal range and quality and plays a mean flute. She also looks great! This is one artiste who needs to return here for a much longer set. An artiste who can hold her own among some of the best out of the US and one just hopes that she gets the exposure such talent deserves.

Steel Pulse ended the show and festival and there was great anticipation of the magic that Third World produced last year. This was not to be however. Steel Pulse were good as they ran over a lot of their old hits and tried out a few newer songs on the audience, but their performance hardly ever approximated great. They seemed to be a shadow of the original group, which rendered the complex rhythms they have been known for. Steel Pulse still promised a lot but one got the feeling this wasn’t one of their greatest nights onstage. You would hardly know though because they had several rows of excited fans waving their “ites”, gold and green flags. There were some persons who left before the Pulse had stopped but many others stayed around to get the last of two great nights of this music fest.

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