Machel Montano 40: Logistical Issues, But Soca Artiste’s Performance Saves The Day

(TT GUARDIAN) – It was a concert with a lot of hype, but when thousands of patrons showed up at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port-of-Spain, for Machel Montano 40: One Show on Friday night, many were left upset before a note was played.

There was a traffic nightmare along Wrightson Road as patrons were anxious to see Montano’s first concert on home soil since staging his last Machel Monday show in 2020. If you were one of those patrons who listened to Montano’s urgings to reach the stadium at the 6 pm opening time, you might have been able to get a good park. Some of the usual parking venues were either closed or pre-booked. It left patrons parking on the surrounding grass, pavements or far away street where there was no security.

If you purchased a ticket for the Diamond tier, you had secured parking with a private entrance. However, many had to forsake their parking because of long queues and other issues with getting into the venue.

Those who arrived at 6 pm lined up outside the stadium waiting for the gates to open. Patrons complained heavily, but there was a lack of information from the promoter. The gates eventually opened at 9 pm. But it was not until 10 pm that the show started, which included a few underwhelming opening acts. There were some frustrating periods when a DJ would play long sessions of old soca, leaving the audience standing still.

Montano’s team is yet to respond to the concerns raised about the show’s organisation.

No love for those in General

With the best view of the stage, the Platinum section was the place to be. It was where the big flags and bandanas were waved – a throwback to the Soca Monarch and Brass Festival of yesteryears. It was where women wined on women, women wined on men, and men wined on men with unbridled euphoria.

Those in general admission voiced their displeasure openly. After the drama outside, the sound system was inadequate for the section in the back. Understanding what the artistes were saying was often challenging, and even though there were screens at the front of the stage, it was too far for proper viewing. There was a sizeable crowd where patrons had beach chairs, coolers, and rags. And although there was a fancy sailor and Dame Lorraine to hype up the patrons, it was not enough.

The sold-out Diamond section was all about pampering for those who spent heavily to view the concert on the elevated platform with a premium bar, food court, and private washrooms. It was hard to get the patrons’ reactions as security blocked media access, even to some artistes and the media lounge.

Social media bashing

Patrons took their displeasure with the event to social media, with several calling the concert a failure. Some were displeased with the Afrobeats. Some wished they kept their ticket money and used it for another event or stayed home.

“Dear Machel, this is by far the worst concert I have even been to in my life,” one social media user wrote.
Another patron complained about the late opening of the gates and insufficient parking.

“I ended up not even getting inside because, absolutely no parking. One set of traffic and nobody could go anywhere. I wasted my good money on overpriced tickets. When I saw him in Barclays in NYC, the experience was the complete opposite.”

But it was not all bad, as there was some positive feedback.

“Well, you all, Machel Montano, One Show, was lit. Ah will never miss ah next Carnival again. Well done,” a social media user wrote. Some even posted videos and gave favourable commentaries on Montano’s performance.

The audience shows Nigerian artistes love

The event that fuses Soca and Afro beats is a mouthwatering concept, but unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype.

At 11 pm, Nigerian singer Rema brought West African vibes to the concert. It was his popular song Calm Down that elicited screams from the crowd.

Eighteen minutes into Saturday, one of Nigeria’s biggest superstars, WizKid, entered with the dance-evoking song, Joro. However, it lacked the vigour expected from an audience that screamed at the sound of the artiste’s voice. He performed his popular hits Come Closer, Essence, Ojuelegba and Mood and even showed that he knew soca, singing Kevin Little’s Turn Me On.

Despite her songs not having as high a tempo as soca, Arya Starr brought a groovy rendition of her songs Good Samaritan and Rush.

Machel and friends sizzle

Whether the show was a hit or terrible depended on who you asked. In an event celebrating Montano’s 40th anniversary of being one of the best in the soca business, he had to rescue his own show from the drab it could have been.

Before his entrance, Machel 40-One Show was not a fantastic Friday that should have displaced the Soca Monarch. When he started, Montano showed why many consider him the GOAT of soca as he shared a connection with his audience who followed his every command. His set included African chants, steelpan from Siparia Deltones and Desperadoes Steel Orchestra and music from Leston Paul and Etienne Charles.

Starting with his 2023 hit, The Spirit, he immediately began invoking the fete essence innate to Trinidadians and Tobagonians. Montano rolled back the years with Mr Happy and music from the last decade, such as Like a Boss and Haunted.

But if anyone was getting tired as the night grew old, Aaron “Voice” St Louis surely re-energised them with Long Live Soca and Niceness. While there was bitterness in years gone by, it seems that bygones were bygones between Montano and his rival, Neil “Iwer” George, who shared the stage and pumped up the crowd.

By the time the drizzle came, it was almost impossible for the crowd to leave as soca temptress Patrice Roberts graced the stage, performing Band of the Year, a 2006 collaboration with Montano. When they sang their 2023 hit Like Yuhself, it caused all manner of craziness among those in front of the stage.

But Nailah Blackman and Skinny Fabulous showed some power with their soca hit, Come Home, which brought love to the house. Destra Garcia joined Montano to perform Shake the Place. The show ended with Montano and a lively Superblue performing Soca Kingdom.

While many hoped Trinidad-born rapper Nicki Minaj would surprise them at the concert after adding her voice to the Shake the Place remix, Montano said she could not get there in time. He assured them that she would be on the road wining for Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

While there was no International Soca Monarch Competition this year, the concert gave upcoming performers like Yung Bredda and Tempa a chance on a big stage.

There was also a tribute to the late Dr Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste, with his children joining Montano and others in performing several calypsoes.