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New York: Reggae fest at Hammerstein Ballroom

By  | 19 August 2011 at 04:34 | 580 views

On any given day, the vicinity around the Empire State Building on West 34th Street from 5th Avenue all the way down to Penn Station and Madison Square Gardens at 7th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, is always bustling with thousands of people and a variety of entertainment events.

Last Thursday, two blocks away from Penn Station and Madison Square Gardens, thousands of reggae fans jam packed the Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom (which according to officials can accommodate 3,400 Standing – Concert plus a two-tiered balcony) to maximum capacity for a sold-out Singers in Action show featuring three of the most charismatic reggae lovers rock artists Wayne Wonder, Sanchez (top photo) and Beres Hammond.

Who said there is a recession and financial hard times? Dishing out $72 for Standing (floor level), $81 for 3rd level seating and $101 - 2nd level seating respectively, was no problem at all ‘Mon’ for thousands of fans who came to the Hammerstein Ballroom to enjoy a night of romantic and soulful reggae.

While waiting for the concert to begin, Deejay Inferno treated the audience to his awesome turntable skills mixing popular root rock and dancehall reggae tracks, while fading in and out of the tracks to let the audience chime in. His house warming exercise combined with his spinning was indeed “irie” (Jamaican patois for extremely good vibes). DJ Inferno also set Hammerstein Ballroom on fire while filling the void in between acts.

For about three pleasurable hours the sold-out audience sang along in unison to the set of all three acts as if they were singing nursery rhymes in a day care facility.

Opening act Wayne Wonder didn’t waste any time to delve into a medley of his hits including Saddest Day of My Life, I Still Believe, When I’m with You, Love and Affection, Movie Star and others. The audience went beserk when Mr Wonder rendered Buju Banton’s Bonafide Love and Untold Stories as a tribute to the embattled reggae super star.

By far, the second act Kevin Johnson better known as Sanchez’s set was more intense and robust. Dressed in a white linen suit, a blue shirt and blue tie to match, Sanchez exhibited more versatility and better stage antics as he delivered love songs and spiritual gospel numbers. Surprisingly, he opened his set with a Bob Marley and the Wailers cover Crazy Baldhead and halfway through the set he did Coming in from the Cold, another Marley and the Wailers tune. I Can’t Wait (You say you love me) and I’m Missing You were well received by the audience.

The audience’s enthusiasm heightened when the headliner Beres Hammond appeared on stage with The Harmony House Singers and a six piece band consisting of a drummer, bass and solo guitarists, keyboardist, a trumpeter and a saxophonist. Beres kicked off his set by posing the question: What can you do to stop a man from trying on his Can’t Stop a Man?. The sing along got louder as he progressed on his catalog of songs including Putting up Resistance, Step Aside Love, Doctors Order and One Dance.

The only glitch was the media room could have used a better coordination between the artists and the paparazzi and media representatives who were painstakingly waiting and hoping to score interviews for their respective outlets.

Harmony Sisters

Beres Hammond