Free reggae concert rocks Coney Island

Self-proclaimed ‘Original dancehall master” Barrington Levy performs at a free reggae concert at Coney Island’s Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island.
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce

On the most comfortable day of the summer reggae supergroup Third World and “self-proclaimed original dancehall master” Barrington Levy sizzled inside the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island when City Parks Summerstage treated enthusiastic reggae fans to an unprecedented free concert inside the venue.

Temperatures dipped to a sweatless 80 degrees last Sunday following a string of blistering heat wave that consecutively found New Yorkers sticking closely to cooling centers and air conditioners for relief.

When it happened a love fest ensued recording a capacity-filled venue where crowds echoed and anticipated every lyric and line from vintage catalogues groups recorded decades ago singing and dancing with revelry that will certainly be documented among the listings of classic reggae showcases.

Reggae Ambassadors Cat Coore, AJ Brown, lead singer; Richard Daley, bass; keyboardists Maurice Gregory and Norris Webb proved the group a unit that has endured 44 years and is still able to move a crowd of thousands.

Their “96 Degrees In The Shade,” “Forbidden Love,” “Sense of Purpose” and “Try Jah Love” authentically reprised an enduring catalogue of hits with nostalgia reflecting the heydays of a reggae reign marked by beats, rhymes, reason and a percussive acrobatic display from Carrot Jarrett that this time was sampled by Tony “Ruption” Williams when he drummed African rhythms into an already superlative set.

Coore, the classically accomplished cellist and bandleader treated “Redemption Songs” and even shouted out greetings to B-Boys— Bob Marley, Buju Banton, former lead singer Bunny Rugs and Barack Obama.

“I miss that boy,”the reggae ambassador said in reference to the former President of the United States.

For a reggae group to even hail the leader of a nation many from the genre often refer to as Babylonians seemed a rare and noticeable departure from usual critical repudiation.

Brown, the newest lead, seemed more secure in his role since replacing the beloved Bunny Rugs, who passed away four years ago from cancer.

Distinguishing himself once again in Brooklyn after making debut appearances at the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park – earned praises with a standing ovation from rendering “Con Te Partiro” the Italian aria which has been become his signature trademark.

Levy took his audience from “Black Roses,””Under Mi Sensi,” “Too Experience,””Spanish Town,” “Dem Ah Murderer” to “Broader Than Broadway.” Fans were elevated beyond enthusiasm singing along to each and every note.

“Everyday I love You Just A Little Bit More,” did not seem an idle confession but a heartfelt emotion he not only sang but stated with punctuation.

Levy talked in between renditions opining on issues from the legalization of marijuana and Jamaica’s latent response to the global embrace saying “look how long we ah tell dem…and Jamaica still no ready.”

He commended Canada, Europe and the United States for acknowledging the medical assets of the plant some Jamaicans have long endorsed as a herbal medicine.

Kabaka Pyramid started the revelry and was no less enchanting offering his compositions as well as hits from Capleton.

In between sets DJ Gravy and Federation Sound provided endless reggae renditions paying tribute to a long list of contributors from Dennis Brown, Luciano, Beres Hammond, Rita Marley and other icons of the genre.

Summerstage must be commended for entreating fans with such a diverse, free, lively and entertaining evening in Brooklyn. Lovers of the music travelled from Connecticut, New Jersey and every borough to enjoy the gratuitous offering.

An undisputed success, the concert was hailed by Caribbean vendors outside the perimeter who echoed the merits of the seaside offering selling juices, nuts, fruits and Jamaican culinary delights.

“I came from Fort Lauderdale, Florida,” Jamaican Charles O’ Brady of Natures Coolers said as he poured soursop juice into a cup. “I met some really irie people.”

Summerstage will offer four more free concerts at the venue however, last Sunday’s is the only Caribbean presentation listed for 2018.

Reggae singer AJ Brown belts out a tune during the concert at Ford Amphitheater art Coney Island.
Photo by Vinette K. Pryce

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