Freddie McGregor and John Holt & A Sell-Out Performance
Backed by the New York Symphony Reggae Strings and We the People Band
By M. Peggy Quattro
Photos Dreamy Riley
April 25, 2008 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – What promised to be an elegant evening of Reggae classics and Reggae strings turned out to be even more than that! The beautiful Broward Center of the Performing Arts was soon filled – from the main floor and mezzanine, to the balcony and boxes – with dedicated fans as excitement and anticipation filled the air.
When Freddie McGregor and John Holt, two of Jamaica’s most beloved and respected singers, come together, backed by the powerful 11-piece Lloyd Parkes and We the People Band AND the 19-piece New York Symphony Reggae Strings, you know it is an event you just ‘cyaan’ miss. The South Florida Jamaican community turned out to support and honor the two legends as they went through a catalogue of hit songs, and had the crowd on their feet dancing and singing the whole evening long. “You don’t have to stay in your seats,” Freddie told the throng, and we certainly did not!
The evening began with the talented and comedic MC Winston Barnes reminding people of the history of adding strings to Reggae. He gave tribute to veteran Harry Moodie, producer of John Holt’s “The Tide is High,” for his contribution, as well as Bunny “Striker” Lee going back as far as 1969.
Barnes introduced the playing of America’s national anthem, followed by a beautiful solo performance of Jamaica’s national anthem by saxophonist Dean Fraser. Lloyd Parkes and We the People offered a selection of their hits, including Dean Fraser’s memorable interpretation of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” before introducing the Reggae Strings, under the direction of Jamaica’s Jon Williams.
Freddie McGregor, looking dashing in his dark tuxedo and baby blue shirt, was first to perform, beginning with “If You Want to Go” and “Push Come to Shove.” The audience rose to their feet and the cool elegance of the Au-Rene theater and strings was soon warmed with the heat of Lover’s Rock and dance. Freddie added to the casual feel by chatting to the audience between such hits as “Big Ship,” “To Be Poor is a Crime,” “Prophecy,” and “I’ll Wait for You.” However, when the first strains of “Born a Winner” and “Let Him Try” reverberated throughout the hall, the audience was up and dancing, singing along in joyous abandon. And that’s what happens when Reggae ‘hits you… you feel no pain!”
In a tribute to his good friend Dennis Brown, Freddie performed “Love Has Found its Way” to the delight of the packed house. To conclude his half of the Reggae Symphony, Freddie offered “Just Don’t Want to be Lonely.” Taking his well-deserved bows, Mr. McGregor then introduced his friend and mentor, the renowned Mr. John Holt.
Strolling on stage in a black tux, white shirt, large gold bling around his neck, and sunglasses, the legendary singer and songwriter was ready to charge us with 1000 volts of Holt. After welcoming his fans and singing his first song, warming up his golden throat, and removing the sunglasses, the smile never left John Holt’s face. While confidently crossing the stage corner to corner, John reeled off such hits as “Want You to Want Me,” “Impossible,” “Wear You to the Ball,” “Love I Can Feel,” “Stealing Love,” “Take My Hand,” and “The Further You Look,” all to the melodious sounds of the symphony strings and the driving beat of We the People.
Coming to the edge of the stage, John called out to fans to “give me a song you want to hear” and he promised, “I will sing it to you right here.” From floor to balcony, fans shouted out their John Holt favorites. He performed acapella versions of “Mr. Bo Jangles,” “If I Were a Carpenter,” and “Stick By Me” before joining We the People and the Reggae Strings to deliver more volts of Holt.
Freddie McGregor came out to join in on the fun, pleased with the flow of this history-making concert. Also in tribute to Dennis Brown, John performed “Wildfire” with Freddie, and the song that brought John Holt international acclaim, “The Tide is High,” made famous worldwide by pop group Blondie.
After three hours of non-stop singing, and music by one of Jamaica’s top Reggae bands and the sensational NY Symphony Strings, the show ended. The two master vocalists bowed graciously, beamed with appreciation as they humbly received the love from the packed house, and turned to honor the world-class collection of musicians behind them.
With the reaction to Freddie’s prior Reggae Symphony shows, and bolstered by the positive reaction to the Ft. Such an endorsement, and such a production, shows how far Reggae has come and draws attention to the fact that it is a music form to be taken seriously. Lauderdale presentation, Freddie told me that requests are coming in from symphonies around the world who want to participate in this classical, rootical production.