REVIEW: Beres Hammond, Maxi Priest at 02 Kentish Town Forum London

Written by Doug Ormerod

Combine the UK’s love for Beres with Jamaica’s 54th Independence Day weekend and it’s no surprise that the Kentish Town Forum was sold out in advance. Reaching early at 7.15pm , thinking ‘great no queue, were early’… until walking in and realising that the capacity crowd had been inside for some time, which is even more surprising when you consider that key transport lines were not running – clearly no one was chancing missing any of the line-up.

The first artists of the night were PA’s. We caught Karen Schloss’s last song ‘All I Need‘ on the timeless Silhouettes riddim which had got the crowd bubbling.

Mr Mighty from Vibes FM (with the loudest mic I’ve heard) then introduced the next UK singer ‘Terro Melody’.  In his short 10 minute set he showcased his versatility, starting on a lovers rock ballad switching to a cover of incarcerated Buju Banton’s ‘Destiny’  and finishing with a dancehall track.

Time for lover’s rock royalty and after a swift introduction Carroll Thompson came onstage to outstanding applause (and vastly improved sound). Opening her set with a well-received acapella of ‘Yesterday‘. The crowd were treated to classics such as ‘Hooked On You’ where Carroll took the riddim track down to sing the song with the audience before promoting her new covers album with a ska adaption of Marcia Griffiths’s ‘If You Knew’. ‘Have we got any lovers rockers in the house?’ asked Carroll before dropping ‘I’m So Sorry’ and ‘Touch Me in the Morning‘. ‘Its been such a long time since I’ve performed in North London, we’ve been on a long journey said Carroll before leaving the crowd ‘Hopelessly in Love‘ .

‘Were moving up to gear 5 now’ says Mr Mighty before introducing Janet Kay.

‘If you know it sing along with me’ said Janet before singing a sweet cover of Minnie Riperton’s ‘Loving You‘. ‘I’m going to take you back in time’ saw classics like ‘Feel No Way‘ & ‘I Do Love You‘ drifting into pitch perfect acapella’s.

‘I Love to do cover songs, sing along with me’  led into ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’ followed by ‘Wishing On A Star‘. ‘Back in time again now, right back to 1979 and a song that entered the UK Top 10’ ‘Silly Games‘.

‘I’m going to bring my friend Carroll Thompson on stage, we’re gonna do this one together’, because we want you to have a ‘Nice Time‘. The music was clearly bringing back found memories to the audience who were singing along word for word and note for note. I look around the packed floor and then up at the balcony, not an empty seat to be seen and patrons are still coming through the door.

Then after just a 10 minute intermission we hear the unmistakable charismatic voice of Daddy Ernie ‘From South London to the billboard number one’ the band on the stand play a musical, rock fueled intro melody before Lewisham born former Saxon singer Maxi Priest strolls on stage with his trademark woolen Kangol, lightweight red, gold and green scarf and three quarter length jeans. The crowd erupt in response to his cool persona as he goes into Should I’ (Dennis Brown) -we can barely hear Maxi over the ecstatic crowd, the sound engineer is quick to boost his mic – what an atmosphere!

‘London massive are you ready to party?’ preludes ‘My Girl Dis’ on Joe Frasier’s 2007 adaption of the Stars riddim, ‘pull it were just passing through’ leads to ‘Just a little bit longer’, Jamaican Bass Guitarist ‘Taddy P’ treated the crowd to a freestyle that hit every fret on the board – serious talent. The pace was kept up with ‘Wild World’ the band giving it their all with energetic crescendos and mix patterns.

Then Maxi cooled down the pace with the Drop Leaf riddim flashing ‘I Believe‘ , before singing about ‘Crazy Love‘.

‘I’m one of yours’ said Maxi before dropping the electro influenced ‘Easy To Love‘.

‘London massive, from out of New York welcome ‘Beniton The Menace’ (aka Jack Frost) announced Maxi to the unmistakable guitar accents of the Sitting & Watching riddim, Beniton ignited the crowd with a hi octane performance, before Maxi switched from ‘Fight This Feeling‘ to salute Dennis Brown with nice improvisations from the band.

‘Lets see if you remember this’ asked ‘Beniton’ to the well known intro of ‘House Call’ switching from hip hop to drum and bass whilst ‘Beniton’ did an impressive job of covering Shabba’s parts.

‘Its Jamaica’s independence, let me hear everybody make some noise if you love reggae dancehall music and Jamaica’ introduced ‘On and On‘ (Down in Jamaica), while ‘Taddy P’ grooved between Duck, Fever & Darker Shade of Black basslines. Beniton summed it up perfectly ‘Jesus Christ, Jamaica Nice’!

Then we hear ‘Mi Short Mi Smart Mi Know Fi Talk’ a surprise performance from Asher Senator bouncing on stage holding his new book ‘Smiley & Me’.

‘If you work hard for your money make some noise’ said Beniton as he changed up the style with his remix of Rihanna’s ‘Work’, the set closed with an extended version of ‘Close To You’ with ragga intermissions.

A short band change is expertly filled by Wassifa sounding crisp and sub heavy, juggling classic 90’s dancehall which kept the atmosphere jubilant, everyone’s dancing, we look to the stage – the legendary Harmony House band are studiously setting up their kit.

Are You Ready! shouts Daddy Ernie as the Harmony House band start playing a lively melody of familiar Beres riddims, Beres (backstage) teases the crowd with his signature vocal slurs before causally walking on stage waving, dressed in his trademark white shirt with matching blue jeans and jacket singing ‘No Goodbye‘, before moving to ‘Can’t Stop a Man‘ (I’m Still In Love With You) & ‘Come Back Home’ (Smile) where he took time to perform a tribute to Garnett Silk (Hello Mama Africa).

Beres slurs ‘This is no disrespect!’ before flinging down ‘Step Aside‘ (Should I). ‘Can you remember when you first heard this song? Where were you?’ asks Beres before the band launch into ‘She Loves Me Now ‘ (Pressure & Slide) and ‘My Wish‘ (Tonight) while the crowd sing out to the chorus. Next is Falling In Love All Over Again‘ ‘Who say that big man don’t cry!’ deejays Beres whilst bounding around the stage impersonating Buju with impressive energy. The band transitions into ‘Kids Play‘ (Swing Easy) and Trevor McKenzie (Bass guitarist) plays low and heavy, the venue walls rumble and quake what ‘Sweetness‘ (My Conversation), followed by just a few lines of  ‘I Could Beat Myself’ (Real Rock) before grooving into ‘Full Attention‘ (Stars). ‘Family’ shouts Beres before dropping ‘Tempted to Touch‘ (A Love I Can Feel), ‘take it down low’ commands Beres before slurring ‘Ladies in the house, you are my golden touch’, Conrad Pinnock (Saxophone) comes front of the stage for ‘Double Trouble‘ (Cuss Cuss), Beres encouraged the crowd to sing out, not that they needed a prompt.

Beres introduces ‘Putting up Resistance‘ in signature acappella style and ‘Robert “Gus” Angus joins him at the front of the stage. ‘Thank You, Thank you, just beautiful says a humble Beres with a beaming smile, next was an acappella of ‘Doctors Orders‘. ‘There’s a magical thing about reggae music and I’m so proud to be part of this’ said Beres before bursting into a extended high tempo Crescendo fueled rendition of ‘Can You Play Some More’ (Things & Time), and this is where Beres gave his band the opportunity to shine, the Saxophone player blows some sweet solo trill melodies, the guitarist effortlessly brakes into a complex rock solo, playing like its his third arm. Joshua ‘son of Donald’ Manning (keyboards) plays a vintage bubble, before the sax player blows the ‘What Is Katty’ melody and the keyboard player answers with a series of smooth piano riffs, for the finale Kirk Bennett (Drummer) joins them upfront on percussion. A nearby patron shouts ‘Bwoy Beres a pressure it hard tonight!’ we agree.

Beres turned his back to applaud his band and raises his hands to say ‘London I Love You Family’, ladies scream as they hear ‘There For You‘ which he follows with the similarly named ‘Over You‘, the crowd are overjoyed when he sings ‘I Feel Good‘, and sing along to ‘They Gonna Talk‘. ‘Tonight is a beautiful thing’ announces Beres who then takes time to show his appreciation for musical greats such as Dennis Brown & Peter Tosh, ‘they lent their talents to me’ he jokes. We hear the sweet samples and muted guitar tones of ‘Rock Away‘, the last song for the night. Beres was on top form and didn’t dip, a superb performance from start to end.

As someone who regularly attends shows in London I have to commend the promotion team behind this event – it started on time, ran to order, all artists preformed for the advertised times and it finished just 10 minutes after the 11pm curfew. It’s also noteworthy that we celebrated Jamaican Independence with a line-up that showcased home grown talent.

© Pictures by DJ745

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