When the curtain fell, it was lovers rock King Beres Hammond who delivered the best performance of the festival. For more than 60 blistering minutes the ‘Boss’ mesmerized fans, serving up a sweet concoction of love ballads and vintage reggae classics for fans. Hammond transformed the stage into his own play pen as his voice caressed hits like ‘Come Back Home,’ ‘Step Aside,’ ‘What One Dance Can Do,’ ‘She Loves Me Now,’ ‘Stay Longer,’ ‘Putting Up Resistance,’ ‘Can You Play Some More,’ ‘No Disturb Sign’ and many others.
If there were any doubts about Sizzla’s ability to rise to occasion, those were quickly cast aside with a full throttle performance in his first NY outdoor appearance in two years. The Rastafarian Bobo Shanti from August Town romped on stage to thunderous applause and quickly reintroduced himself with ‘Holding Firm’. He slowly built the positive vibes to a crescendo and kept the energy flowing with his unending catalogue of cherished classics that included ‘Why Should I,’ ‘Nothing In The System’, ‘Good Ways’ and ‘Woman I Need You’. He upped the anti with ‘Mash Dem Dung,’ ‘African Woman’ and ‘Dry Cry’ – ‘One of those Day’ before closing with ‘Praise Ye Jah’ that left patrons screaming for more.
Multi-Grammy award winning superstar Michael Bolton, the final performer and who was making his second appearance at Groovin In The Park, confirmed his top billing, charming fans with a litany of love ballads. His soulful voice on ‘Stand By Me,’ ‘You Don’t Know What It’s Like,’ ‘Sitting On the Dock of The Bay’ and ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You’ had lovers in the audience wrapped up in each other’s arms.
Powerhouse R&B singer, songwriter, and television personality Keyshia Cole’s appearance on stage revealed she is a glowing expectant mother. With just enough time to say hi and bye, in the blink of an eye the singer was gone but not before delighting fans with hits ‘Heaven Sent’ and ‘Can’t Raise A Man.’ Other strong performances came from Third World who had fans jamming to ‘Now That We Found Love,’ ’96 Degrees in the Shade’, ‘Try Jah Love’ and their new Jr Gong produced single ‘Loving You Is Easy’.
The highly anticipated performance of Sir David Rodigan did not disappoint. The British BBC 1Xtra radio host took fans on a musical odyssey through ska, rock steady, reggae and dancehall, reeling off big tunes like ‘My Boy Lolipop,’ ‘Satta Massagana,’ Ras Karbi ‘Jamaica I’ll Never Leave You Again,’ Super Cat’s ‘Don Dada’ and Buju Banton’s ‘Driver A’ which earned a frenzied response from fans. Midway in his set Rodigan was joined by dance maestro Alphonso Castro who displayed his dancing skills on ska hit ‘Love & Affection.’ By the time he invited long time sparring partner Barry G on stage for a brief sound clash, the frenzy was electric. It was almost 35 years ago that Rodigan and Barry first engaged in a sound clash in the USA. On that cold winter night in Brooklyn, the two captivated music lovers with original dub plates that drove fans wild. The two evoked a similar response at Groovin as they traded dub plates ‘Golden Hen,’ ‘Pumpking Belly,’ ‘Ring The Alarm’ – Tenor Saw; ‘Trash & Ready’ – Super Cat and concluded with Leroy Smart’s ‘Without Love.’
“This was a magnificent festival”, said reggae artist Maddadan who was one of the emerging reggae stars from Queens who had the opportunity to perform in the rising star segment of the show. “I was super excited to be on the same stage as reggae giants Beres Hammond, Sizzla and Third World, and I made the most of it”, he declared proudly.