Beres Hammond Stages Record Breaking Virtual Concert
03/02/2021 by Gardy Stein
Humans are an adaptable species. Put them in the cold, they'll wear animal furs to keep warm; put them in the desert, they'll dig wells and invent irrigation; put them in social distancing, they'll come up with online streams and concerts! (Please bear with me, as this is the first ever virtual concert review I write...)
While live Facebook stagings of individual artists, online clashes, Zoom parties or DJ sessions on Twitch have been going on for some time, the magnitude of the event aired last Sunday (February 28, 2021) is unparalleled in the Reggae industry. As part of the final celebrations of this year's Reggae Month, VP Records has teamed up with Harmony House to present Beres Hammond: Love From A Distance - and a peak of 105,000 people around the world watched the concert live on YouTube!
At 9pm Jamaican time, a classic warm-up was played by DJ Inferno aka KingFRNO for about half an hour, before the concert itself started. "Here is a man, just a man and yet a legend. A man who has given his full attention (...) to his art, writing, producing, performing and singing sweetness." says a warm voice, and the intro is accompanied by visuals from the Harmony House Studios, showing the band setting up and technicians getting ready. Beres Hammond himself greets the spectators with the words "Relax in your homes or wherever you are and: Welcome to Beres."
The band then jumps into the first notes of the song Love From A Distance, and the artist enters stage in casual blue jeans, white sneakers, a white shirt with floral print and his signature cap, singing to a lovingly arranged array of screens showing listeners all over the world, and maybe a dozen live guests with masks.
Beres starts his show with tracks like No Goodbye, Can't Stop A Man, Come Back Home, Step Aside, What One Dance Can Do and She Loves Me Now in a medley-style, breaking in a little dance-step now and then, while the cameras switch between close-ups of the artist and moving shots of the musicians. Speaking of: the Harmony House All Stars (Wayne Thompson on drums, Trevor McKenzie on bass, Robert Angus on guitar, Donaldson Bernard on flute and keys, Chadian Munroe on keys, Errol Graham on percussions, Hopeton Williams on trumpet as well as Kemroy Bonfield and Conrad Pinnock on saxophone) look swag in their dark-blue satin shirts and black trousers, and the three background singers Dorrett Wisdom, Sherida Sharpe and Thamar Williams top off the visuals with matching African-inspired dresses. Beautiful!
Twenty minutes into the show and a well-known voice is heard from the Off. To the sweet sounds of I Wish, Buju Banton enters stage to deliver his signature line "Woman just a likkle more time, won't you stay inna me world..." and the chemistry between the two performers is immediate. During the next track Falling In Love All Over Again, they switch roles, Buju singing Beres' part and Beres imitating Buju's rough MC style. Favourite moment so far! Buju then turns to the master and says "Listen. The work that you've been putting in into this industry, it's only because my people refuse to see why they don't see it, cause the world see it. We apprecilove you, you know, every day!", followed by a big hug.
The subsequent Can You Play Some More has me in tears all of a sudden cause, damn, no matter how technically perfect the set-up and the audio is (and the whole production is really top-notch, so kudos to all people involved!), it just can't compare to the heat and the smell and the sound and the physical feel of the real live experience, and this is what I miss badly, painfully in this moment.
A short break gives us time to catch a breath and fetch a drink, and when Beres comes back out, he delivers an emotional No Disturb Sign followed by Sweet Lies, Groovy Little Thing, Kids Play and Sweetness. A next highlight of the show is the arrival of Queen Marcia Griffiths on stage, stunningly clad in a colourful jumpsuit and head-wrap. They sing Live On hand in hand, and the vibrant intensity between them feels as if they are creating the song on the spot.
The next minutes are filled with some of Beres' biggest hits: They Gonna Talk, Double Trouble and Putting Up A Resistance. Thanks to the incessant work of the VJs in charge, the LED-screens in the back of the stage look magnificent, and we get glimpses of people's smiling faces in their living rooms around the globe, inserted into the stream as well as live comments such as "Wow, 100k!" (Nadia Watts) or "Go Beres, we missed you!" (Kadian Ward) or "love love loveeeeeeeee the back up singers dresses. Those ladies look so classy, movements and choreography on point, voices amazing..." (Charmaine Poyer).
You could assume that the concert draws to a close now, but Mr. Hammond has one more ace up his sleeve: Popcaan! The artist addresses the elder, saying "Before me sing, me haffi say SALUTE to a living legend!", and the two of them dive into a touching duet called God Is Love. Powerful!
The classic reply to such new greatness is Tempted To Touch, and the well-coordinated musicians make it sound like the original. There For You and Call To Duty bear proof of Beres' vocal prowess, still at his command, before the grande finale Rock Away wraps up an amazing concert. Biiiiig respect and heartfelt gratitude to everyone having a part in this!
The last word is given to the artist himself, who assures us in the outro "Honestly, I'm feeling very good about the future, not just about Jamaica, but about the music because I've been encountering with a lot of voices, positive people that are coming into the business... it makes me feel good, it makes me feel warm, cause they are the future!"
A detailed closing credit lists everyone involved, from executive producers Christopher Chin and Mervis Walsh via Hugh "Harmony House" Hammond to every LED technician and Zoom operator. Bim!
Summing up this exceptional evening, here are some comments from the YouTube-Stream (which gained at least 50,000 views while writing this review, having collected a total of 700k views within 48 hours):
"Who else started it all over again once the live ended? I will be watching this over and over. I can never get tired of listening to father Beres. Nuff, nuff, nuff respect to a living legend and Icon." (Suzette Williams)
"The Feeeeels. Beres. The King. There is not one situation in a relationship that Beres has not spoken to. I could hold a complete conversation using Beres songs as my words." (Kenatu Bruce)
"The best virtual reggae show ever witnessed by the world during this pandemic, maybe of all time." (Orette Spence)
"Omg! What can we say.... BERES will always live on in our hearts and in our homes. I needed this tonight and will replay this over & over again! Thank you guys for loving us all enough to have put this together and sharing it with the world. Peace & blessings" (Stefanie Reed)
WATCH THE FULL CONCERT HERE: