Publication:Jamaica Observer; Date:Jan 14, 2007; Section:Entertainment; Page Number:13E

Sonic treats at the Village

BY DARREN KHAN Observer Entertainment writer

    THOSE who turned out for the latest edition of Tuesday Night Live were in for a surprise treat or two at the Village Café, Liguanea, St Andrew.

    With the largest group of people ever to grace the stage all at once at the Village Café supporting him – at one point, there were 10 people – Michael Sean Harris put on a show that demands to be remembered for the duration.

    Boundaries such as genre, style and even language were not just ignored, but dismissed with disdain during the heavyset Harris’ set – one number was even sung in Arabic. With members of the band C Sharp, the performing arts group Ashé and students from the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts in tow, wearing a blue Tshirt psychedelically decorated and with the name Jimi Hendrix emblazoned across his chest, he started off with Breath of Fresh Air, which was a less than subtle hint of the amazing things to come.

    Supporting Michael Sean Harris was the band C Sharp comprising Randevon Patrick (drums), Aeion Hoillet (bass guitar); Lamont Savoury (guitar) and Chevaughn Clayton (vocal support and congo drum); Sherita Lewis and Othneil Nation (vocal support), Ray Banton on keyboards; Chris Downer playing percussion; Adrian Hemas on keyboards and for one song, Mijanne Webster playing the violin.

    Together they were overwhelming, their coherence and skill delighting those present. Moonshine Darling and the bluegrass/Appalachian ditty Mountain followed, Harris picking up a viola and being joined by Webster on the violin, whipping up lilting notes which brought images of Scotland or Ireland to mind, before shades of Africa appeared as the song progressed.

    The next song was introduced by Harris as having been co-written by Michael Holgate, who was busy with a video camera in front of the stage. In Your Presence added to the eclectic feel of the performance, being

almost impossible to pin down in terms of genre. It was a marvel to see and listen to the gestalt – something, this time a sound, a vibe, an experience, which is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Like the cogs and gears in a well-oiled machine they all filled their roles dexterously and with aplomb, giving birth to an entity which was beyond merely a performance.

    “The next song… you should recognise it soon. We were fooling around in the practice room and this is what happened,” said Harris prior to a brilliantly rearranged version of Bob Marley’s So Much Trouble In The World. Voices was next and the fact that it was sung totally in Arabic detracted not one whit — just the opposite in fact, adding a taste of the exotic.

    Cheers greeted the opening bars of what should have been the closing number, a cover of Coldplay’s The Scientist. Harris possesses a much better than average voice — which he does not try to extend beyond its limits, and kudos to him for that — and in concert with the instruments and the back-up vocalists, provided an experience which left those lucky enough to be there breathless. At the end of their set, DJ Venom and the audience would not allow them to leave. Interestingly, they had no encore prepared, which indicates either humility or says they have no idea how good they are. Either way, an encore was demanded and one was provided in the form of a medley of the songs which went before – adding pieces of Shine-Eye Gyal – before they finally departed to rapturous applause.

    A maestro in his own right, Maurice Gordon may have felt nervous about matching what went before. If he did, there was no indication. Taking the stage right after Harris, he was more than up to the challenge.

    Gordon started off with a bang. Hair in cornrows, eyes closed and lips moving soundlessly and wasting no words, launching into a rip-roaring cover of Carlos Santana’s Europa, showing his intentions with a torrid solo.

    He then introduced the band – Courtney Sinclair and Adrian Hemans on keyboards, Adrian Maitland on rhythm guitar, Adrian Henry and Mfonabasi on bass and Deleon White on drums, with Gordon himself playing lead guitar.

    “My guitar will be doing the singing tonight – that’s OK?” asked Gordon to the affirmative, and his instrument wailed throughout Jammin’ On The Rock, at times dueling with Sinclair on the keyboard. The more relaxed Rainblue saw applause greeting another duel between the two before Gordon stated that they would be going into Junior Kelly and Jah Cure territory, which they did by performing Receive and What Will It Take – translating them into a language all their own, and during which Gordon, Maitland and Henry all took solos, much to the audience’s delight.

    “We’re going to get a little crazy on the next two songs,” declared Maurice Gordon, and that they did, taking the audience right along with them. A hyperactive, rock-intensive cover of Turbulence’s Notorious followed, with howling guitars, frenetic drumming and reverberating bass; Gordon and Sinclair trading ferocious guitar licks for power chords before the band moved into Rock Caprice No. 24, tearing the house down almost literally in the process.

    An encore was a no-brainer and Maurice Gordon and company obliged with Baba Boom, almost achieving sensory overload before it was time to go leave, the sonic assault over.

    Earlier, poet and occasional songstress Saffron (Phillippa Sauterel) opened the show. With copies of her book Soft Flesh on sale at the door, she went to the microphone seeming rather tense and overcompensated for the same. Her delivery, like her poems – including one totally in French and another in response to a ‘rant’ left by rocker Katherine on Saffron’s page - was short and succinct, almost matter-of-fact, for the most part lacking the passion she displayed in earlier appearances.

    Sarah Couch, the daughter of songstress Suzanne Couch and entrepreneur and musician Peter Couch, who currently lives in Spain, was next. She was supported solely by her cousin Loren Couch – with whom she wrote all of her songs and without whom she said none of what she was up to would have been possible – on the guitar.

    Adorned in a simply-patterned, almost virginal slightly low-cut white dress held up by two thin straps, she launched into her original set with I Know. She was nervous, but one would not notice unless they paid attention to the arms clamped to her sides, alternating with the hands clasped in front of her, during her three-song set.

    Loren sat on a stool to her left, his eyes closed throughout as he plucked simple melodies to accompany his cousin’s laidback voice. Waiting and a plea to the Jamaica and the world to make the planet a better place, Save the Day, served to give mere hints as to her prowess as a singer/songwriter. As she matures and gains more self-confidence onstage, she is sure to send shivers down the spine. As it was last Tuesday, she merely entreatingly teased – she was good, but can be so much better.

Sean Michael Harris (Photo: Roy Sweetland)

Maurice Gordon