TT’s top five steel bands pulled out all the stops to thrill patrons at the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, on Saturday night for Big 5 - The Concert.
Hosted by the International Steelband Foundation, the event started promptly at 6.30 pm. And although it was held under the distinguished patronage of the Prime Minister, Dr Rowley was not present.
The concert paid tribute to Neville Jules, widely regarded as an icon of immense stature in the pan world.
There a moment of silence for retired Chief Justice, the late Clinton Bernard who died earlier on Saturday.
Bernard, an avid pan lover, was the person who coined the name Big 5.
By the time ten-time national Panorama champs Massy Trinidad All Stars began its set, the crowd was ready for a night of great pan music and that’s exactly what they got.
All Stars warmed them with Rhythm of the Night and Theme from Cats - Memories, but as they went into a medley of Do It Fluid and I Get Lifted, the crowd started moving in their seats, some clapping.
Guest performer, music producer and arranger Leston Paul, made his keyboard ‘sing’ with Samba de Orfeu, leaving patrons amazed.
All Stars continued with Lovely Day, then came Tobagonian powerhouse vocalist Kay Alleyne whose notes reverberated throughout the savannah as she sang Let’s Stay Together. Lusty applause followed her rendition.
All Stars’ next number, Green Green Grass of Home, was dedicated to Jules, long time arranger for the band. The band then closed the set with their signature song, Woman on the Bass, much to the delight of the crowd.
Fresh from receiving his honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies the night before, music producer and arranger Pelham Goddard proudly led Republic Bank Exodus to a most enjoyable set.
In recognising the Divali holiday, the band, complete with brass, gave patrons Jahaji Bai and Golo, while Goddard chose to beat tassa for these numbers.
He then got on keyboard, and with Exodus’, delivered a fine rendition of Robbie Greenidge’s Paradise Garden, after which they followed with Bound to Dance (Joey Lewis), that also got patrons to their feet.
The band’s version of Intermezzo in E Flat by Anthony Prospect conducted by Desmond Waithe was a joy to listen to, as was guest performer Eddie Cumberbatch who sang Gounod’s Ave Maria.
The latter left the crowd spellbound.
The renowned tenor also expertly delivered Give God the Praise from the pen of Chris “Tambu” Herbert, with background vocals coming from Nigel O’Connor and Moricia Cagan.
Exodus closed with a swing medley.
Reigning, and 11-times Panoroma champions, BPTT Renegades Steel Orchestra, began their set with Ella Andall’s Festival Song, featuring yet another powerhouse vocalist from Tobago, Sharon Phillips, Temperature Brass and Jeunes Agape Choir.
The band followed with So Much Trouble from reggae icon Bob Marley, before getting into a Motown medley - Got To Be Real/September/Celebration - that entertained the crowd.
Renegades then wowed the them with Troubadours’ Talk, and after a brief presentation to outgoing band manager Michael Marcano by the incoming Colin Greaves, Renegades, featuring Phillips in a giant-size angel costume, Jeune Agape and Temperature Brass, brought the house down as pores raised with a powerful execution of Lionel Richie's Jesus is Love.
The band kept the temperature heated with their winning Panorama song Hookin Meh, executing it to near perfection.
Arranger Duvone Stewart got all emotional standing at the back of the band, and at one time wiped tears from his eyes.
Afterwards, he said he was shedding tears of joy as the memory of winning Panorama crossed his mind.
Then in the spirit of the season, Renegades ended their set with a soca parang medley of Wrong House and Paintbrush, with vocals by Oscar Benjamin.
Hadco Phase II Pan Groove, led by its musical director Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, and with Douglas Redon on his electric bass, got their highly entertaining set going with What a Wonderful World conducted by Akua Leith.
Guest performer Willard “Relator” Harris joined the band to do Pan on Sesame Street, Gavaskar and Make a friend for Christmas.
But it was the other guest artiste, Romaro Greaves, a Barbadian saxophonist, who together with Boogsie mesmerised the crowd with Lovely Day, then went to town and ‘ramajayed’ on Mr Magic and Savannah Grass, earning them and Phase II a standing ovation.
The band ended their set with a calypso medley, that had the audience singing along to Ethel, Soca Baptist, Lizard, Jane, My Pussin, Obeah Wedding, Doh Do Dat and Drunk and Disorderly.
Eleven-times pan champs Desperadoes’ soothing version of Masquerade, was literally music to the ears, as was El Relicario with Enrique on xylophone.
Despers’ next played Year for love with vocals by The Lydians after which arranger Carlton Zanda Alexander did a keyboard intro the band’s Panorama song Iron love, before they launched into it full blast.
Guests artists Kory Mendez, Nakita Gadsby and Jamel Williams joined the band for Funiculi Funicula, after which Despers put smiles on the faces of fans with their signature song Rebecca, before ending their performance and the night’s show with Baron’s Come Go and Scrunter’s Mme Jeffrey.