Did you get irie with Mr. Pato Banton on Saturday night? Because the Belly Up was filled with nothing but peace, love and good vibes for his triumphant return. After touring through all 50 states the crucial entertainer told the packed house there’s “no place like home." But this was not a normal homecoming; it marked the release of his new DVD “Live at the Belly Up 1-1-11."
Fans had the privilege of getting their hands on the first batch of the performance along with a chance to meet with the reggae legend.
The night started out with the sweet sounds of San Diego’s High Tide. Despite the crowd being on the smaller side when they took the stage, they really got the night started. Surfer Bros and women old enough to be their moms couldn’t help but dance to the infectious songs.
Using a variety of instruments from African drums to a didgeridoo to fill out their songs and deliver a little spice to the show. By the end of the set the Belly Up really picked up and no one was left standing still.
DJ Carlos Culture kept the vibe going with a collection of new and old reggae/ dancehall songs. By the time his intermission was over, the crowd was ready for the crucial entertainer.
Now all lovers of positive reggae music could you please fasten your seat belts because we have lift off. Pato Banton’s set started in a somewhat different way than most. The lights were down low with no one on stage but the guitarist and a flute player. They looped the same beginning of “Life is a Miracle” until the man of the night took the stage.
Pato Banton was setting the stage for what could have been a religious event. Who’d have thought you could have a spiritual revival in a bar on a Saturday night?
He spent the opening talking to his fans about the importance of compassion over a loosely arranged version of his song. Banton took his song and used it to convey his message in the easiest way driving the point home with the chorus of “Life is a Miracle."
At this point the bassist and drummer join the stage with the crescendo of the crash. They make their way seamlessly into “Pato’s Opinion” when the horn section takes the stage. Banton has the crowd mesmerized, as their hands form a sea rocking back and forth in crowded club.
Even though they seem to be completely engrossed in the spectacle in front of them; he continues to work the crowd. He takes the time to speak to people individually without missing a beat. Pato Banton has won them over. You’d think he was a politician the way he moves across the stage shaking hands and chatting with his fans (if there were babies he’d probably have kissed them too).
Pato Banton may not have released the biggest hits but he does put on one of the best shows. His mastery of his songs is something that is rarely seen. Instead of sticking to the same old delivery of one song from a CD followed by another; he takes risks to manipulate them to further his performance.
In the middle of playing “Pato’s Opinion” the entire band freezes in place to the point that you have to ask if they’ll ever start playing again. Well after a minute passes before they jump back into the song. After finishing the next chorus the band freezes yet again. This time Banton adjusts each member to be in just the right position- moving the guitarists so he slightly bent back, tilting the trumpet player and raising the bassists so he has just the right look. It’s really a matter of showmanship. He makes a point of feeding the crowd with the energy he wants to create.
Pato Banton decided to lighten the mood and play a fan favorite- “Don’t Sniff Coke”. He builds the tension repeating the intro over and over telling fans not yet, not yet. The crowd is pumped up and ready to get started but then he stops. The band goes quiet and Banton points to a woman in the crowd. He says “you’re recording the show illegally” and has security escort her up on stage. After he finds out that she’s from Venezuela he grabs the camera, looks straight into it and says “I am in one of the best places in the USA. Venezuela let me show you how we party in San Diego”. He breaks back into the song letting the girl record the performance. Pato Banton sends the crowd into a frenzy building the tension up and up yelling “Hold it, hold it” over and over and then he drops the first verse of his biggest hits. He closes off the song with a picture for his Venezuelan fan.
The night continued on with surprise after surprise. Honestly, one of the most astonishing parts was his willingness to take the attention off of himself and put it onto others. Whether it was using Bob Marley’s “Jamming” to showcase the talents of his backing band, congratulating two of his fans who just had their first child or singing Happy Birthday to a girl who’s friends sent a text asking him to sing for her. The girl made a point of telling me how blown away she was that Pato Banton got the entire Belly Up to sing her Happy Birthday.
Banton took a night that could have been nothing more than superficial entertainment and turned it into something so much more. He used the opportunity to spread his message of creating a brighter future through brotherhood, peace, love and unity. By incorporating these beliefs he didn’t detract from his show but rather created a show with substance.
Whether you are a fan or not of his messages, you cannot dispute his genuine belief in creating a better world. When Pato Banton takes the stage for his encore he explains to his fans that he is their brother and their friend. He even tells them if they ever need anything he is there for them and he tells them how to get a hold of him. How many artists have told you that? (If you want to find out you’ll have to go check out his show).
The headmaster, the preacher, the master M.C. dazzled the Belly Up that night. Pato Banton wrapped up the night with a three-song encore that included a mash up of “Gwan!” and an unrehearsed “Hey Tosh” by special request. He caps it all off with “Never Give In” before jumping off the stage to take pictures and sign autographs for his fans. Pato Banton aimed to do more than just put on a show; he looked to fill his fans with “niceness” and inspiration. In doing so he put on an incomparable performance.