B.B. King Blues Club is one of the better destinations for live music in the city. Located in the heart of Times Square, it offers mature audiences the opportunity to enjoy top acts in a laid back, intimate environment. While browsing the B.B. King website, I came across a poster for “Ladies Night Out” featuring Patra, Melanie Fiona, Lumidee, Spice, Tifa, and Alaine. This noteworthy selection of reggae and dancehall acts could not be ignored so I braved the sweltering heat on July 17th to show my support.
Doors were supposed to open at 10pm but it was 11:15 before they finally let us in. Luckily DJ Norie of Power 105.1FM took to the wheels of steel, soothing the crowd with old school Hip Hop, Dancehall and Soca. At midnight, Alaine Laughton took the stage. Known simply as Alaine this songstress rose to fame in 2005 with “No Ordinary Love” on Don Corleon’s Seasons riddim, topping charts in Jamaica and the UK. Alaine is no stranger to NYC having grown up in nearby New Jersey, but charged with the task of warming up an undeniably tough crowd, she appeared nervous. Legs shaking, she still managed to deliver an enjoyable set of lover’s rock ballads, wowing the crowd with her angelic voice, heartfelt lyrics and sparkly sequined dress. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Alaine perform, and it was nice to see her shed her girl-next-door image in favor of something well… sexier. Her recent collaboration with Shaggy on the track “For Your Eyes Only” shows a more playful, suggestive side – as did her performance. The lucky gentleman she invited on stage had a hard time keeping his hands to himself during her impromptu serenade.
Up next was dancehall’s (latest) bad gyal Latifa Brown aka “Tifa”. This rising star has carved a firm niche in the male-dominated dancehall industry with her striking lyrical talent and distinctly playful persona. As a deejay, Tifa has somehow managed to tow the line of “slackness” while maintaining the polished flair of any other “uptown” performer. She took the B.B. King stage in five inch wedges and delivered an explosive performance, in my opinion, the best of the night. She had the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand even though few of them knew ANY of her songs! Her wit, charisma and sexually charged lyrics were enough to spark cheers of appreciation. “Spell It Out” and “Give It to Me Proper” were definite crowd favorites, and as this “Certified Diva” left the stage, she left us all wanting more.
Moments later the reigning queen of slackness Grace Hamilton aka “Spice” took the stage, bellowing a slew of depravities at the top of her lungs. I love Spice as much as the next Jamaican, but the fly-away purple wig and wobbly six-inch stilettos weren’t doing her any favors. Luckily she kicked the shoes off, narrowly avoiding serious injury, before launching into her performance. Despite these antics, Spice still received a luke warm response, that is, until she performed “Romping Shop” her infamous collaboration with self proclaimed “dancehall hero” Vybz Kartel. This song received the wildest cheers of the night proving that Spice does have the potential for international success.
When R&B songstress Melanie Fiona appeared singing Sizzla’s “Solid as a Rock”, there was nothing short of pandemonium. To be honest, I didn’t know who Melanie Fiona was before this concert, but you can be sure I won’t be forgetting her name! Born to Guyanese parents, Melanie Fiona is no stranger to Reggae music and when she performed her verse from Steven Marley’s “No Cigarette Smoke [In My Room]”, I had to raise my hands in salute. What’s more, she delivered her set with the passion and ease of a veteran artist and when she finally got to her Grammy nominated hit “It Kills Me”, she brought the crowd to its knees. Stunning as she is talented, Melanie Fiona’s versatility knows no bounds. Her earthy style and impressive vocals should keep her star burning bright for several years to come!
Lumidee and veteran dancehall deejay Patra were the night’s biggest disappointments. I found their performances incredibly uninspiring which is unfortunate since Patra was the headlining act. All hype and no substance, she croaked her way through a mediocre set. After only ten minutes, she made an abrupt departure, leaving the crowd stunned. Rumors swirled, but there were no definite answers as to why the show’s headlining act bolted.
Overall “Ladies Night Out” gave Manhattan a solid taste of a music genre that has become a staple in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. I did find it interesting that the VAST majority of patrons were women. Maybe men aren’t as inclined to support female artists or, maybe the name “Ladies Night Out” was too emasculating. In any case, I did enjoy being around my people for a change. Being in Morningside Heights without the influence of Caribbean culture can prove a bit stifling.
SOA (Film) ’14
Arts Initiative Student Associate