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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lionel does hits right

Jamaica Jazz & Blues Fest Nite 2

I've made no secret of my general disdain for what I term "hits-driven performances" you know, where an act just comes and unloads their catalog and thinks that that is good eough.

Thankfully, Lionel RIchie understands - as he demonstrated on Firday night at the Aqueduct - that live music is supposed to move people, and not just to dance, but to feel more alive and also to feel collectively part of a bigger experience than they would as individuals.

In a set that ran well over a hour and a half, he and his band took the jazz & Blues fest to a party, the large crowd being swept up almost in unison into a massive pulsating sing-along (and dancealong). They went with him not only because they knew the songs, but because he maanged to make it feel as if they were being heard for the first time (no easy feat for a 30-year veteran). The Commodoores stuff like "Lady(You Bring Me Up)" "Easy Like Sunday Morning" and "Sail On" were there as well as the solo ballads like "Penny Lover" and "Hello" and even the cheesy "Dancin' On the Ceiling" were simply devoured by an anudience that could easily have stood for another hour. Fittingly Lionel eneded his conquest with the uptempo "All Night Long" all of which made life tough for former Foreigner front man Lou Gramm who had the grave misfortune of being the closing act (similar to Matisyahu on Thurs night).

Elsewhere on the night, indigenous vocal talent shined bright in the early going. Roslyn, a regal (and Francophone) Diana Rutherford and Ricardo Suave all gave good accounts of themselves, but the temperature didn't really pick up until L.U.S.T. took the stage. Exemplifying casual elegance, and withtheir voices in very good form, the quartet breezed through a compact yet diverse set, including their smash cover of Air Supply's "Just As I Am"

In a return engagement from last year, Canadian Nikki Yanofsky showed maturity and was confident enough to tackle 'big people stuff' like Stevie Wonder's "Love's In Need of Love" but unfortunately she spent a little too long on stage and also was upstaged by the Western Jamaica combined Choir (have to check that name), who she invited on as special guests in rendering "A Little Help From My Friends"

Patrons would no doubt have left the venue satisfied i nthe early hours of Saturday morning, and with considerably high expectations of first-timers Chicago and the Mighty OJays, who are among tonight's headliners.

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